Rabbi Boteach takes on DADT
Editor’s note: I’ve been looking for articles for some time for Jewish thought on DADT. This is an interesting perspective.
Read the full post here
Gays Have a Right to Serve their Country
Every person has a right to serve his country, gays included. All have a right to serve their country openly without hiding who they are. It’s kind of odd that so many heterosexuals who are not prepared to make that kind of sacrifice, refusing to enlist in the military and preferring instead to live as armchair warriors, are condemning those with a patriotic passion to fight for freedom.
The other day a woman called my radio show on WABC 770AM in NYC to argue with me. She was adamantly against the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ She said a homosexual lifestyle was dirty and against the Bible. I asked her whether she had children of military age and whether they, as good, clean, heterosexuals would enlist in place of the gays whom she would ban. She responded, “They are doing other things to serve their country.” I thought so.
Homosexuality is a religious sin. The Bible makes that much clear. But it is not a moral sin. Rather than being like the moral (and religious) sin of adultery, in which lying, deception, and injury to an innocent party are committed, homosexuality is an infraction between G-d and man. In that sense it is akin to lighting a fire on the Sabbath, an act strictly forbidden by the Bible. No moral sin has taken place, but it is forbidden on religious grounds.
I am a Rabbi and I take the words of the Bible seriously. But I will not call gay men and women names, I will not become a homophobe, and I will not make the error of mistaking sins that are deeply unethical, like ‘Do Not Steal,’ with those that are simply irreligious, like gay men living together.
On the same radio show a member of the military called in and said, having served with homosexuals in the military under ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ he too was opposed to the reversal of the ban. ‘Too many gay men hit on me in the showers and the barracks, and were pretty aggressive about it, for me to think that they should ever be allowed to serve openly in the military. It will only make things worse.” To be sure, I don’t agree with the sentiment. I have worked with gay men and have become very close to many of them and they have yet to hit on me even once. Granted, I am about five-foot-six, have a bushy beard, and have a monopack rather than a six-pack. But jokes aside, even if I disagree with the sentiment I respect the veteran offering the opinion because he actually served. He fought, he sacrificed, and he has earned the right to a strong opinion on the matter. I believe his opinion is flawed in that it is probably more of an argument for the complete and utter separation of men and women in the military than it is against the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ Still, he is a veteran and has earned the right to be strongly heard. The rest of us, however, who have, for the most part, put personal considerations like fear of injury or love of making a little bit more money that what’s on offer in the military ahead of giving our country a few years of our lives, and perhaps life itself, should perhaps be a little bit more humble about elevating our opinions on a par with those who have enlisted.
Read the rest at the above link.
It raises some good questions…is service member opinion more relevant than non-service member in a country where civilian control of the military is one of our saving graces?
Statistics concerning sexual violence raise the only strong ethical argument I can think of, as one must do in a wall-of-partition state, considering a significant portion of sexual assaults are on men by men who identify as heterosexual. Ironically, this was one of the strong arguments against women serving in a gender-integrated force. But even the gender-based assaults occur, which is extremely unfortunate, and prevalent enough that we spend a significant amount of time in sexual assault training as a force, more so than any other occupation outside of rape counselors and police investigators.
Anecdotally, two years ago, a rather significant gang rape occurred on Fort Indiantown Gap, in Pennsylvania, during a unit’s drill weekend. Introducing women to the force, for good or for ill, put intraservice sexual assault on the table as a sadly common ordeal.
So, I’ve indicated before that we must brace ourselves, that introducing openly gay service members will add another victim class to the military. I’m not as concerned about being hit on by men as I am seeing guys that I come to respect and admire being targeted for sexual violence merely because they are gay. It’s not far-fetched. But is it an argument in favor of DADT when in spite of the threat of sexual violence, women in uniform have brought great credit and value to the uniform?
Personally, I wrestle with this issue. On one hand there’s a Torah-observant Jew that can’t condone the Conservative Movement’s end-run around halachah to permit gay marriage, but on the other, there’s living in a society where when the argument against something is primarily a religious one, the law cannot abide by that standard. Yes, my objections to murder, rape, theft, and just about anything are just as rooted in religion, but there’s a direct line of causality that the law can recognize. It’s very difficult to substantively do the same with homosexuality.
Ugh. Why this has to be the focus of folks’ concern for the military while we’re in the midst of two wars, and always on the brink of more, is beyond me.