Photo Credit: Diocese of California and Gage Skidmore
The leader of the US-based Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, has hit out at President Donald Trump’s announced ban on transgender people serving in the US military. President Trump made his announcement via Twitter last week, catching many people by surprise, including – it seems – military leaders who said that the country’s policy would not be changed by the President’s Tweet.
Under a phased roll-out of a full-inclusion policy, initiated by former US President Barack Obama, there are currently more than 2,500 transgender people serving in the US military. The final phase of the scheme would enable transgender people to join the military as new recruits. That phase was awaiting a policy report reviewing the previous phases of the roll-out.
In a series of Tweets on Wednesday of last week (26 July), President Trump said: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”.
The Marine Gen. Joe Dunford also told the chiefs of the military branches and senior enlisted leaders that the military will continue to “treat all of our personnel with respect.”
The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Joseph Dunford, wrote to military leaders telling them that there would be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”
And the chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, Dana White, said that military chiefs were still awaiting guidance from the Whitehouse on the move, adding that until that happens, “the department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.”
Responding to the move, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said that he was “compelled to oppose these actions and to affirm the moral principle of equal rights for all persons, including LGBTQ communities.” In a statement issued on Friday, Bishop Curry said: “I do so as a follower of Jesus Christ.”
He continued: “This conviction is not born primarily of a social ideal, but of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the witness of our biblical and theological tradition.”
After citing a series of biblical texts which spoke of people being created in the image and likeness of God, “the inherent sanctity, dignity and equality of every person”, Bishop Curry said: “In the Episcopal Church we promise in Holy Baptism to ‘respect the dignity of every person,’ and to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons.’
“As Americans, we believe in civil and human equality, as one of the foundational ideals of our country. Discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is a violation of the fundamental ideal of equality in America. The Declaration of Independence says, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.’
“Those rights – and the protection from discrimination – apply equally to all Americans.
“I truly believe that the overwhelming goodness and kindness and sense of justice of the American people are summed up in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, which says that we are ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ Therein is the soul of America!
“So, to the transgender individuals currently serving in the armed forces: thank you. We are grateful for your service and for your sacrifices. We support you and all service members and veterans. You are our neighbors, brothers and sisters in God’s human family, and fellow citizens of this country we love.”
Speaking to journalists last week, Whitehouse Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that “the White House will work with the Department of Defense and all of the relevant parties to make sure that we fully implement this policy moving forward and do so in a lawful manner.”