WASHINGTON (BP) -- The U.S. Army has implemented new training that requires soldiers to accept the presence of people with the physical traits of the opposite sex in barracks, bathrooms and showers.
The Army is thereby threatening the religious freedom of service members and playing a role in promoting falsehoods about what it means to be male and female, said a policy director for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
The mandatory training follows the repeal last year of the prohibition on transgender men and women serving openly in the armed forces. Then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter set a deadline of July 1, 2017, for implementing the new policy. New Secretary of Defense James Mattis, however, announced June 30 a six-month delay in enlisting transgender people.
Mattis' action does not affect current service members, and the Trump administration has shown no indication it intends to reverse the policy established under President Obama, according to "The Weekly," an email digest of news and opinion published by the ERLC.
Andrew Walker, the ERLC's director of policy studies, told Baptist Press the Army leadership's acquiescence "to the demands of transgender activists is misguided."
"Most problematically, the Army is complicit in advancing a worldview that tells fundamental distortions about what it means to be a man or a woman," he said in written comments. "The Army's actions overlook the protests of dissenting soldiers uncomfortable with the idea of sharing private spaces with members of the opposite sex, which also pose risks to religious liberty.
"It is unfortunate and lamentable that a venerable institution such as the U.S. Army is now trafficking in radical proposals about human nature," Walker said. "While Southern Baptists want to show love and extend dignity to those who identify as transgender, the Army is wrong to make soldiering a place for political correctness."
Details about the mandatory training were reported by James Hasson, a former Army captain and Afghanistan war veteran, according to the July 7 edition of "The Weekly." Hasson received a copy of the "Tier Three Transgender Training" materials the Army is using from an active-duty officer and wrote about it in The Federalist.
Changes to the policy cited in the training materials include, "The Weekly" reported:
-- Soldiers may change their gender by revising their personnel file -- Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). They must first have a "diagnosis" by a military or civilian doctor that they identify as a gender different than their biological sex, said ERLC communications specialist Joe Carter.
-- Soldiers are to use the barracks, bathrooms and shower facilities associated with their "gender marker" in DEERS, and other soldiers should "understand that you may encounter individuals in barracks, bathrooms, or shower facilities with physical characteristics of the opposite sex."
-- "[T]ransgender Soldiers are not required or expected to modify or adjust their behavior based on the fact that they do not 'match' other Soldiers."
-- The terms "sex" and "gender" are no longer the same. "Sex and gender are different. Sex is whether a person is male or female through their biology. Gender is the socially defined roles and characteristics of being male and female associated with that sex. There are a number of people for whom these associations do not match. This feeling may arise in childhood, adolescence or adulthood and may result in gender dysphoria."
-- A male who identifies as a woman "will be allowed to use the lower physical fitness standards for women and can be restrict[ed] from serving in positions requiring routine exposure to direct combat" by changing the "gender marker" in his paperwork.
-- If "gender transition is medically necessary," soldiers "will be provided medical care and treatment for the diagnosed medical condition" at taxpayers' expense.
The document says soldiers should respect "the privacy and modesty concerns of others," but "The Weekly" reported Hasson wrote, "Most Army showers look like a prison cell with several showerheads on the wall. Anyone who has dealt with the practical challenges of funneling 30 people through them in ten minutes understands that 'privacy' will be incompatible with reality. Female soldiers who feel uncomfortable sharing facilities with individuals who still have 'physical characteristics of the opposite sex' will just have to put up with it."
An estimated 15,500 transgender people are serving on active duty or in the guard or reserves, according to The Williams Institute, a pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender think tank, "The Weekly" reported.
In 2014, messengers to the SBC's annual meeting approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that "affirm[ed] God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception." The resolution "regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them." It also said, "[W]e continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy."
In addition, the resolution said, "We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel."