Debra J. Saunders

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace defended the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy by explaining that he was brought up to believe that "homosexual acts between individuals are immoral" in an editorial board meeting with the Chicago Tribune.

It shows that something is off-kilter in American journalism and politics when -- in the middle of a war -- the predictable news cycle followed, with "don't ask, don't tell" critics branding Pace as a bigot, and demanding an apology. Stop the presses: Someone in the military has issues with homosexuality. Big story?

Some Americans think homosexuality is a sin. Who knew? They even dare say as much in public. Apparently, American media believe something must be done about that. We can't have people expressing their religious beliefs in public, now can we?

The best way to promote tolerance for gays, however, is not to muzzle people who disagree. "Don't ask, don't tell" critics should stick to arguing the issues.

It will be a sad day in America if tolerance for gays is won because intolerance of devout Christians, whose faith tells them homosexuality is a sin, prevails. You want tolerance? Exercise it. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, issued this how-dare-they statement: "What is immoral is to weaken our national security because of personal prejudices. Gen. Pace's comments were irresponsible, offensive and a slap in the face to the gay men and women who are currently serving their country with honor and bravery."

Translation: You can't call us immoral. If you do, you have to apologize. But we can call you immoral, secure in the knowledge that no one in the media will ask us to apologize.

I can't get all that exercised. As a San Francisco Chronicle columnist who supports the Iraq war, I get called immoral (and worse) every week. I don't agree, but people have a right to their opinions.

Be it noted, Pace, a Catholic, also supported military sanctions against adulterers, whose behavior he also called "immoral." Because there is no politically powerful lobby for adulterers, there have been no calls for Pace to apologize. Before I continue, let me mention that I don't like "don't ask, don't tell." It's a wrong-headed policy that hurts America's national security by keeping good people who want to serve their country out of the military. A federal audit found that "don't ask, don't tell" has cost the military some 10,000 troops, including professionals with important skill sets -- most notably 322 linguists and 54 Arabic specialists -- since President Bill Clinton promoted the policy in 1993.

Debra J. Saunders

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