President Trump is erratic and impulsive, fails to consult his advisors, and governs through late-night tweets. But that doesn’t mean that he’s wrong on about transgenders serving in the military.
“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 US Military,” Mr Trump tweeted. “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.”
The move reverses transgender-friendly policies introduced by the Obama administration.
About 1.3 million men and women serve in the US military. An estimated 2,500 of these active-duty service members are transgender, and another 1,500 of the 825,000 reserve troops.
To no one’s surprise, Trump’s decision was bitterly criticised. Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “Mr. Trump, you are on the wrong side of history. Discrimination has no place in our military or society. We must stand with trans people.” The Human Rights Campaign said that the Mr Trump was “unpatriotic” and “unfit to serve as Commander in Chief”.
Let’s cut Trump some slack here. Will his initiative be good for the military or not? Would a transgender-friendly Army be more effective at defeating ISIS?
As for the costs, Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council, estimated that allowing transgenders to serve in the military would cost between US$1.9 to $3.7 billion over the next ten years. Part of the reason for the huge bill is that under the old policy the military was to cover all expenses of gender reassignment surgery at no cost to themselves. That means that the military would become a magnet for transgenders who want the expensive surgery. (The cost is around US$89,050 for female-to-male procedures and $110,450 for male-to-female procedures.)
So Trump’s view that transgenders are a financial drain on the defence budget are well founded.
As for discrimination, why not see if other groups are also being discriminated against? If Americans really care about protecting rights, why not look at escalating discrimination against Christians in their Armed Forces?
The Family Research Council is so concerned about this issue that it has launched a website, Military Freedom, to defend the freedom of military personnel. In a recent report the FRC complained that
pressures to impose a secular, anti-religious culture on our nation’s military services have intensified tremendously during the Obama Administration. This pressure exists across the armed services, but it has become extremely acute in the United States Air Force (USAF) … [There are] concerted efforts to scrub the military of religious expression, through which the chilling effect of punishment and potential career destruction lie at the back of everyone’s mind.
The First Liberty Institute is a team of lawyers devoted to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. One of their concerns is discrimination in the military. Its website sketches a few of its lawsuits. Here are some details:
Marine Corps Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling was convicted at a court martial after she refused to take down Bible verses she had posted in her workspace and for reposting the verses after her supervisor threw them in the trash. The offending verse was a paraphrase of Isaiah: ““No weapon formed against me shall prosper”. She lost her final appeal in June, was given a bad conduct discharge and was demoted.
Colonel Michael Madrid is a decorated Air Force veteran and a devout Christian. In 2014, a service member accused Col. Madrid of making derogatory comments about homosexuality. Col. Madrid denied making such comments but admitted that he held traditional Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality. An investigation cleared him. However, two years later, a new commander accessed the report and decided Madrid was guilty and punished him. The case is still being disputed.
Oscar Rodriguez, Jr. is a Air Force veteran who has delivered a patriotic flag-folding speech over 100 times at civic and military events. In March 2016, a retiring service member asked him to speak at his retirement ceremony, at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. When he began, uniformed Airmen assaulted him, dragged him out of the ceremony, and expelled him from the military base because the speech included the word “God.” The case is still being fought.
In another case, the Navy threatened Chaplain Wes Modder in late 2014 with punishment and a Board of Inquiry after Modder answered questions pertaining to marriage and sexuality according to his religious beliefs and denomination’s teachings during private counseling sessions. Modder fought back and in September 2015, he was exonerated.
Bernie Sanders is wrong about many things, but he got this one right: “Discrimination has no place in our military or society.”
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.