Arguing against gays in the military, Brauchler indicated branches don't accommodate religious needs

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In defending the U.S. military's policy of barring openly gay service members, guest co-host George Brauchler suggested on the July 23 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show that, similarly, the military does not make provisions for certain religious practices among troops. In fact, the armed forces follow Department of Defense policy stating that service members' religious practices "should be accommodated" whenever possible.

On the July 23 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show, guest co-host George Brauchler defended the U.S. military's policy of barring openly gay people from service by providing examples suggesting that the military does not accommodate special religious needs of service members. But in arguing that such a protocol regarding religion is consistent with the military's policy regarding homosexuals, Brauchler ignored military regulations that, under certain circumstances, specifically acknowledge and mandate accommodation of a wide variety of religious practices. Further, Brauchler did not acknowledge news reporting about ways in which the armed forces have put those regulations into effect.

Claiming that he was "not making a moral judgment about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality," Brauchler stated that "the military asks everybody that's a part of it to make a sacrifice." As examples, he said that "practicing orthodox Jew[s] ... don't get to keep the Sabbath holy" and Catholics in the service "don't have a right to insist upon the Eucharist." He also stated that Muslim soldiers "don't have the right to insist on being able to pray ... five times a day by facing a certain way." Brauchler concluded his comments by saying, "We discriminate against people coming into the military based on height, weight, eyes, a whole list of medical things. All of these things are done so that we can have the most effective fighting force with the greatest chance of success for the mission." In fact, the branches of the military follow Department of Defense policy stating that service members' religious practices "should be accommodated" whenever possible.

As Colorado Media Matters noted, during the July 6 Caplis & Silverman broadcast, Brauchler asked Jason Knight, an openly gay former naval petty officer and current communications associate for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, whether being gay in the Navy is "like putting a kid in a candy shop." Brauchler later stated that he was "insinuat[ing]" that "the Navy are the light-in-the-loafers service" -- a remark that was referenced in a July 23 Denver Post guest column by Stephen Benjamin, who identified himself as a former Arabic translator in the Navy. Before explaining in the column that he had been "kicked out" of the Navy in March, Benjamin wrote that gay members of the military are "forbidden to talk about all the normal things our shipmates and battle buddies do. If we make that mistake, if we talk about our lives in the wrong place, we are fired." He later argued that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy "does the exact opposite of what it intends." Benjamin further wrote in the Post:

Morale goes out the window when a qualified troop is wrenched from the ranks and ousted because he's gay.

A 2006 Zogby poll shows a majority of military members either want the ban lifted or don't care. A CNN/Opinion Research poll in May shows 79 percent of those polled want "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" abolished. It's not a liberal issue and it's not a social experiment. It's about a restoration of the American ideal that someone from any walk of life can serve his country and make himself better in the process.

We dealt with this issue when the military was racially integrated. Despite proclamations of disastrous results, the military stood up and became the leader in social change. Same with women. And the same will be with gays.

Yet some people still use this very serious issue as comic fodder. On July 6's "Caplis & Silverman" show on KHOW-630 AM talk radio, former Jefferson County deputy district attorney George Brauchler, a guest on the show, asked whether being gay in the Navy is like "putting a kid in a candy shop." He also said, "Anybody in the Army and the Marines knows exactly what my insinuation was, and that is that the Navy \[is\] the 'light-in-the-loafers' service."

Before introducing Benjamin on the July 23 broadcast, co-host Craig Silverman noted that the column "took on George Brauchler, who has made an articulate case for why he doesn't believe gay people should be able to actively maintain a gay lifestyle in the military."

From the July 23 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show, with guest co-host George Brauchler:

SILVERMAN: Stephen Benjamin wrote the above-the-fold lead editorial in yesterday's Denver Post's Perspectives section. It was titled "Fit for service? Please, don't ask." It made the point that he was a translator from the Arabic language for the United States Navy, but he got kicked out because they found out he was gay. Then it took on George Brauchler, who has made an articulate case for why he doesn't believe gay people should be able to actively maintain a gay lifestyle in the military. George, put it in your own words.

BRAUCHLER: Well, first off, hey, Stephen; thank you for being on. I appreciate you coming on and I hope you appreciate the opportunity to come on. In fact, I know that you do and I, I appreciate your service as well. If you had listened to that whole hour that [guest co-host] Darren [McKee] and I did, you would have heard that intelligent conversation about what should and shouldn't be changed about this policy. But let me tell you the way I approach this, and I want you to then respond to it. Is that OK?

SILVERMAN: Here we go. Here, let me pull him up. Go ahead. You heard all that didn't you, Stephen?

BENJAMIN: I did.

BRAUCHLER: Yeah. All right. So here's the thing. Stephen, I know you're going to agree with me when I tell the audience that the military, all branches, goes out of its way to physically segregate the genders from a lot of circumstances in which they might otherwise engage in sexual conduct. Specifically, showering and living together. By and large, they, they do not allow -- certainly in training and throughout most of the time on the post -- you to cohabitate with other soldiers of opposite genders, and they do that because you and I both know men and women are prone to get it on. That's just what happens. And that's not a reflection of the fact that every guy is going to be attracted to every girl. But we don't let men and women shower together in the military. We don't let men and women bunk together and sleep together in the military. We have a ton of regulations about discouraging sexual conduct between the genders and between soldiers. Things related to fraternization, or even adultery -- things that, you know, consenting adults can agree to, but we say "no." And the reason we say "no" is because sexual conduct is a moral killer, it is a discipline killer, it is a unit cohesiveness destroyer, and it interferes with the mission.

So those things being true, Stephen, I'd love to hear if you disagree with any part of that in a moment. But those things being true, I ask you this: We allow open homosexuals in the military, where do we house them? Do we house them with other men? Do we house them with women? Do we house them with each other? I mean, I'm not making a moral judgment about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. Frankly, I don't care. I think that this policy is a response to an imperfect situation, and it asks -- the military asks everybody that's a part of it to make a sacrifice. Here's an example: You are a practicing orthodox Jew; you don't get to keep the Sabbath holy. You're going to do what the military tells you to do on the Sabbath whether you like it or not. You're a Catholic, you're out in the field, you're doing whatever; you don't have a right to insist upon the Eucharist. You're a Muslim in the military; you don't have the right to insist on being able to pray, and forgive me if I get this wrong, five times a day by facing a certain way. You don't get to wear your hair a certain way; you don't get to dress a certain way. We discriminate against people coming into the military based on height, weight, eyes, a whole list of medical things. All of these things are done so that we can have the most effective fighting force with the greatest chance of success for the mission.

Despite Brauchler's suggestions that the military would not permit some religious practices, the armed forces follow a Department of Defense directive regarding "Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services." The document states that "Worship services, holy days, and Sabbath observances should be accommodated, except when precluded by military necessity." The directive further states:

3.2.2. The Military Departments should include religious belief as one factor for consideration when granting separate rations, and permit commanders to authorize individuals to provide their own supplemental food rations in a field or "at sea" environment to accommodate their religious beliefs.

3.2.3. The Military Departments should consider religious beliefs as a factor for waiver of immunizations, subject to medical risks to the unit and military requirements, such as alert status and deployment potential.

3.2.4. The Military Departments should include relevant materials on religious traditions, practices, and policies in the curricula for command, judge advocate, chaplain, and similar courses and orientations.

3.2.5. The Military Departments should develop a statement advising of DoD policy on individual religious practices and military requirements to applicants for commissioning, enlistment, and reenlistment.

3.2.6. Religious items or articles not visible or otherwise apparent may be worn with the uniform, provided they shall not interfere with the performance of the member's military duties, as discussed in subparagraph 3.2.7.5., below, or interfere with the proper wearing of any authorized article of the uniform.

3.2.7. Under Public Law 100-180, section 508 (reference (c)), members of the Armed Forces may wear visible items of religious apparel while in uniform, except under circumstances in which an item is not neat and conservative or its wearing shall interfere with the performance of the member's military duties.

Different branches of the military, in conjunction with the directive, have issued a variety of policies regarding religious accommodation. For example, according to Air Force guidelines, "Commanders should ensure that requests for religious accommodations are welcomed and dealt with as fairly and consistently as practicable throughout their commands. They should be approved unless approval would have a real, not hypothetical, adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, standards, or discipline. Avoidance of schedule conflicts between official activities and religious observances can enhance effectiveness and demonstrate mutual respect."

Moreover, "Army Pamphlet 600-75, Accommodating Religious Practices" states:

(1) Religious worship. Sunday morning is not the only recognized or designated time for worship for military personnel. Some religious groups observe a 24-hour sabbath beginning at sundown on Friday and ending at sundown on Saturday, when they are required to refrain from certain activities. Other religious groups conduct worship services at various times during the week and weekend. Duration of worship services differs between religious groups. Commanders are encouraged to accommodate the unique religious worship requirements of their soldiers when mission requirements permit, by allowing them the time and opportunity to worship according to their custom and practice. Exceptions to normal duty hours may be necessary in some cases.

(2) Religious events. Certain religious holy days or other observances are established as times of obligation or significant events in the life of the religious group. Particular festivals, rituals, historic reenactments, or religious seasons may be as important or even more important than weekly worship. When possible, commanders should consider granting time off, exceptions to normal duty hours, passes, or ordinary leave for soldiers to be able to participate in religious events.

Individual armed forces regulations also specifically address requirements for accommodating various religious practices. For example, the Marine Corps Manual in Section I, Paragraph 2816, titled "Chaplains and Religious Affairs," states in part:

2. Observance of Sunday

a. Except by reason of necessity, or in the interest of the welfare and morale of the command, the performance of work by Marines shall not be required on Sunday. Marines whose religious faith requires them to observe some day other than Sunday as their Sabbath are entitled to respect for their religious convictions. To the extent that military conditions permit, personnel who celebrate the Sabbath on a day other than Sunday shall be given every possible consideration to be excused from duty on that day due to their strong beliefs regarding the Sabbath. Persons so excused may be required to perform duty on Sunday.

b. Divine services shall be conducted on Sunday if possible. When there is no chaplain attached to the command, the commander shall engage the services of any military chaplain who may be available. If no chaplain is available, the commander shall, when practicable, arrange for the services of a civilian clergyman. Commanders may appoint lay leaders to conduct divine services or to supplement the ministry of assigned chaplains. [emphasis added]

Furthermore, mainstream news media have reported examples of how the armed services have put those regulations into effect. For example, a December 27, 2006, Christian Science Monitor article about Muslims serving in the U.S. military reported that the Marines "have allowed Muslims in their ranks at Quantico some dispensations to make it easier to practice their religion." The article quoted an officer as saying that during Ramadan, Muslim soldiers are "allowed to have some time off to prepare for their fasting break and not to go to physical training."

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