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[COMMENT: This piece by David Barton is a good piece of history, but it needs some serious commentary.
I changed above the title to read "Homosexual Persons", not "Homosexuals", because 'homosexual' should not be used as a noun when referring to persons. Homosexuality is a condition persons have. To use the noun form tends to support their claim that there is an inbred identity, for which there is no empirical evidence, only the self-generated claim.
In the article below, which I take to be accurate history, one must at the same time reserve judgement on the ways in which colonial and early American people dealt with homosexuality. The application of public humiliation and such physical punishments as whipping, castration, or death only feeds the problem, not the solution. Any person who cannot make a clear distinction between behavior and personhood is ill equipped to judge any other person's behavior. Jesus died to save our personhood, but because of our behavior.
On the one hand, there must be a clear forbidding of such behavior in the public attitude. Like alcoholism, homosexuality is a condition which is not, or only rarely, chosen. It is often a condition which is first inspired by sexual molestation when young, and/or a failure to bond with the parent of the same sex, leaving a terrible gaping hole in one's psyche.
We do need rules and/or laws preventing homosexual persons from being in possibly compromising situations with young people, such as teachers, youth ministers, or Boy Scout leaders. They do have a proclivity to sexually engage with the young. Churches should treat homosexuality like any other sin -- you are welcome here on the understanding that you want to deal with your condition, get the help you need, and repent of any bad behavior.
And behavior which is clearly destructive to others should be actionable at law, just as a drunk who wreaks havoc should be jailed. Homosexuality is not a "victimless crime", as often claimed. People actively engaged in homosexual behavior die young. That was true long before AIDS came on the scene, as both the Bible and the article below indicate.
So homosexuality is many things. It is a "condition", often unchosen, but often compulsive and addictive. It is also a set of specific sexual behaviors, almost all of which are very self-destructive. It is often an attempt by persons to "heal" the gaping hole in their psyches, filling the need for male or female affection in the only way they know how.
But these addictions can be healed. Like alcoholism, healing of homosexuality requires strong self-discipline and strong family and friendship discipline, including from church and therapist. Persons interested in pursuing the subject of healing should visit http://www.exodus-international.org.
In other words, homosexual persons are creatures of God, loved by Him, for whom Jesus died, just like the rest of us. There are thousands of homosexual persons who would like to exit the homosexual lifestyle, who just want to hear that Christians love them.
The primary failure in all of this lies at the door of the Church, which rarely reaches out to these people, and which rarely stands firm in a helpful and graceful and truthful way. We seldom wed truth with love and more often become either judgemental or soft. God requires that we combine truth with love. We put our own souls in danger when we do not.
So, the severe warnings issued below from our founding fathers are right on target. But they had little knowledge on how to help such people. Their reticence in speaking even the name of the sin was not helpful, and no doubt came out of their inability to deal with it helpfully. They saw it only as sin, and did not understand the nature of addiction. Just as the Old Testament Hebrews understood the terribly destructive nature of paganism, they dealt with it by military means, wiping out whole peoples. It was only the visitation of the Son of God, who taught us the nature of spiritual warfare, how to take on evil directly and appropriately, wielding the Sword of the Spirit -- speaking the truth in love, that we have learned to deal with evil in a manner which honors the person in every sinner. Behavior may need to be condemned. People need to be saved.
The Church thus ought, on one hand, to be leading the struggle
for sexual sanity, and upholding the Godly vision of marriage and condemnation
of homosexual behavior, and, on the other hand, standing firmly
with homosexual persons as children of God, in need of help,
including a firm moral stand. E. Fox]
Homosexuals in the Military
by David Barton
Preface: There was a series of events that led to the need for this historical analysis. Below is a general chronology providing context. There were, no doubt, numerous other events that occurred-- newspaper articles, magazine articles, government reports, meetings, etc. However, these key events will preface the analysis:
January 20, 1993--William Jefferson Clinton assumes the Presidency, promising to end the historic ban on homosexuals serving in America's Armed Forces.
In recent years, widespread discussions and hearings have been held concerning the issue of homosexuals serving in the United States military forces. This monograph will explore the issue via three questions:
While the issue of homosexuals in the military has only recently become a point of great public controversy, it is not a new issue; it derives its roots from the time of the military's inception. George Washington, the nation's first Commander-in-Chief, held a strong opinion on this subject and gave a clear statement of his views on it in his general orders for March 14, 1778:
At a General Court Martial whereof Colo. Tupper was President (10th March 1778), Lieutt. Enslin of Colo. Malcom's Regiment [was] tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly, For Perjury in swearing to false accounts, [he was] found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War and [we] do sentence him to be dismiss'd [from] the service with infamy. His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of camp tomorrow morning by all the drummers and fifers in the Army never to return; The drummers and fifers [are] to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose. 1
General Washington held a clear understanding of the rules for order and discipline, and as the original Commander-in-Chief, he was the first not only to forbid, but even to punish, homosexuals in the military.
An edict issued by the Continental Congress communicates the moral tone which lay at the base of Washington's actions:
The Commanders of . . . the thirteen United Colonies are strictly required to show in themselves a good example of honor and virtue to their officers and men and to be very vigilant in inspecting the behavior of all such as are under them, and to discountenance and suppress all dissolute, immoral, and disorderly practices, and also such as are contrary to the rules of discipline and obedience, and to correct those who are guilty of the same. 2
Noah Webster--a soldier during the Revolution and the author of the first American dictionary --defined the terms "dissolute" and "immoral" used by Congress:
Dissolute: Loose in behavior and morals; given to vice and dissipation; wanton; lewd; debauched; not under the restraints of law; as a dissolute man: dissolute company.
This meaning of the word "moral" versus "immoral" was understood throughout American society; the practice of sodomy was clearly adverse to and "contravene[d] Divine precept." The order to "suppress all dissolute, immoral, and disorderly practices . . . contrary to the rules of discipline and obedience" was extended throughout all branches of the American military, both the Army and the Navy. 4
It can be safely said that the attitude of the Founders on the subject of homosexuality was precisely that given by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws--the basis of legal jurisprudence in America and heartily endorsed by numbers of significant Founders. 5 In addressing sodomy (homosexuality), he found the subject so reprehensible that he was ashamed even to discuss it. Nonetheless, he noted:
What has been here observed . . . [the fact that the punishment fit the crime] ought to be the more clear in proportion as the crime is the more detestable, may be applied to another offence of a still deeper malignity; the infamous crime against nature committed either with man or beast. A crime which ought to be strictly and impartially proved and then as strictly and impartially punished. . . .
Because of the nature of the crime, the penalties for the act of sodomy were often severe. For example, Thomas Jefferson indicated that in his home state of Virginia, "dismemberment" of the offensive organ was the penalty for sodomy. 7 In fact, Jefferson himself authored a bill penalizing sodomy by castration. 8 The laws of the other states showed similar or even more severe penalties:
That the detestable and abominable vice of buggery [sodomy] . . . shall be from henceforth adjudged felony . . . and that every person being thereof convicted by verdict, confession, or outlawry [unlawful flight to avoid prosecution], shall be hanged by the neck until he or she shall be dead. 9 NEW YORK
Based on the statutes, legal commentaries, and the
writings of prominent military leaders, it is clear that any idea of
homosexuals serving in the military was considered with repugnance; this
is incontrovertible, with no room for differing interpretations.
The thought of lifting this proscription is a modern phenomenon, and
would have brought disbelief, disdain, and condemnation from those who
established our Armed Forces.
Before considering the importance of morality to the military, first consider some general statements on the importance of morality by those responsible for originally creating the rules that have stirred so much controversy of late in the debate over homosexuals in the military. John Adams (the founder of the Navy), on October 13, 1798, while serving as President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, told the military:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. 18
Adams similarly explained:
Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue. 19
George Washington, the nation's first Commander-in-Chief, summarized the same truth in his "Farewell Address." Significantly, this address was also partially authored by John Jay (the author of America's first military discipline manual) and Alexander Hamilton (a General during the Revolution). These three military leaders emphasized the necessity of moral behavior, declaring:
Of all the dispositions and habits which leads to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity [happiness]. Let it simply be asked, "Where is the security for property, for reputation for life, if the sense of religious obligations desert . . . ?" And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. 'Tis substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it [free government] can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric? 20
Since moral behavior was necessary for society in general, it was even more necessary for military personnel in whose hands rested the security, and thus the future, of the nation. The importance of good morals in the military can be seen in the following three selections from Washington's general orders:
It is required and expected that exact discipline be observed and due subordination prevail thro' the whole Army, as a failure in these most essential points must necessarily produce extreme hazard, disorder, and confusions; and end in shameful disappointment and disgrace. The General most earnestly requires and expects a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the Army which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness; And in like manner requires and expects of all officers and soldiers not engaged on actual duty a punctual attendance on Divine service to implore the blessings of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defence. 21
Consequently, moral improprieties were met with
severe punishment in the American military-- as illustrated by the
opening example in this paper.
The crime not to be named [sodomy], I pass in a total silence. 24
America's first law book, authored by founding jurist Zephaniah Swift, communicated the popular view concerning sodomy:
This crime, tho repugnant to every sentiment of decency and delicacy, is very prevalent in corrupt and debauched countries where the low pleasures of sensuality and luxury have depraved the mind and degraded the appetite below the brutal creation. Our modest ancestors, it seems by the diction of the law, had no idea that a man would commit this crime [anal intercourse with either sex]. . . . [H]ere, by force of common law, [it is] punished with death. . . . [because of] the disgust and horror with which we treat of this abominable crime. 25
John David Michaelis, author of an 1814 four-volume legal work, outlined why homosexuality must be more strenuously addressed and much less tolerated than virtually any other moral vice in society:
If we reflect on the dreadful consequences of sodomy to a state, and on the extent to which this abominable vice may be secretly carried on and spread, we cannot, on the principles of sound policy, consider the punishment as too severe. For if it once begins to prevail, not only will boys be easily corrupted by adults, but also by other boys; nor will it ever cease; more especially as it must thus soon lose all its shamefulness and infamy and become fashionable and the national taste; and then . . . national weakness, for which all remedies are ineffectual, most inevitably follow; not perhaps in the very first generation, but certainly in the course of the third or fourth. . . . To these evils may be added yet another, viz. that the constitutions of those men who submit to this degradation are, if not always, yet very often, totally destroyed, though in a different way from what is the result of whoredom.
In view of the arguments listed by historical and legal sources, there is substantial merit for maintaining the ban on homosexuals in the military. 27 The Founders instituted this ban with a clear understanding of the damaging effects of this behavior on the military. This ban has remained official policy for over 200 years and one would be hard-pressed to perceive the need for altering a policy which has contributed to making America the world's foremost military power.
1. George Washington, The Writings of George
Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: U. S.
Government Printing Office, 1934), Vol. XI, pp. 83-84, from General
Orders at Valley Forge on March 14, 1778.(Return)
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