Saturday, September 8, 2012

Anti-Gay Memo Roils Army

The Army finds itself in a major controversy after a senior officer urged excluding gays and other groups from the service. A memo from the commander of the 1st Army Division in Antofagasta recommended avoiding recruits "who present health, mental, socioeconomic or criminal problems, drug users, homosexuals, conscientious objectors and Johovah's Witnesses." News of the February-dated memo sparked a fury, prompting a swift rebuke from government leaders and an apology from Army chief Gen. Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba. It may sound odd to find Jehovah's Witnesses among the excluded groups, but church doctrine forbids serving in the military. A church spokesman in Chile said it was a good thing the Army took its beliefs into consideration. It's a different story for gays, who are not barred from serving in Chile's military. Defense Minister Andres Allamand condemned the entire memo and ordered Fuente-Alba to ensure that the Army is free of discrimination against all persons. The Ministry said discrimination is not tolerated under the Army's own doctrine nor under Chile's new anti-discrimination law. This is the worst crisis of Fuente-Alba's command, but his job appears to be safe. Some politicians, though, want the 1st Division commander fired. While the Ministry of Defense is sounding magnanimous, there are limits to what it considers discrimination. For example, married persons, parents and members of any political party cannot become noncommissioned officers. Similar rules apply to Chileans wishing to be professional soldiers or enter other areas of the armed forces. Update: A Chilean gay organization revealed an Air Force document that notes similar objections to gays. The document lists certain psychological grounds for exclusion in FACH, namely "Sexual alterations or perversions: homosexuality, lesbianism, voyeurism and exhibitionism." (Scroll to Articulo 101.)

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