Terry Mattingly at Get Religion, a blog about religion and journalism, looks at some of the fallout from the “don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal for military chaplains.
His main question is whether a new military policy on homosexuals serving openly (they have always been there clandestinely) will affect the ability of some chaplains to follow the dictates of their tradition.
It’s a clash-of-rights issue, as he presents it.
But I what notice is how, once again, Wicca becomes the “default Other” religion, the hard case that must be accommodated:
How many Wiccans feel comfortable with a Pentecostal pastor, a Muslim imam, a Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi, an evangelical Lutheran or anyone from another faith leading their rites (if they are allowed to do so under their own vows)? Now, many forms of pagan faith do not have formal ordination procedures (while some do). Who approves the appointment of a layperson as a chaplain? How do a small circle of pagan chaplains serve believers on bases spread out around the world?
…. Now, the dying soldier is a Muslim and the chaplain is Jewish, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal, Wiccan, etc. etc.
So far, there are no Pagan chaplains of any sort in the United States military. Well-qualified applicants get nowhere.
At the same time, at least some chaplains have been very supportive of military Pagans. The chaplaincy structure stood behind the Fort Hood Pagan group in 2000 all the way to the top.
Mattingly sees three possible outcomes. None of them is completely satisfactory:
(1) Find some way to end the chaplaincy program (under the assumption that if equal access is not possible, then closing down the chaplaincy program is the only legal option that is fair to all).
(2) Allow clergy to serve without violating their ordination vows (with the knowledge that, even when working with people of good will, this imperfect system will cause tensions and accusations of “hate speech”).
(3) The establishment of state-mandated and government-funded religious rites and rules of conduct of chaplains, mandating that expressions of the beliefs of many clergy are acceptable and that expressions of opposing beliefs are not acceptable. Some chaplains would argue that option (3) is already in place, but it is inconsistently enforced.