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Stated Clerk Speaks Out on Trump's Proposed Ban on Transgender Personnel in the Military

July 30, 2017

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stands with transgender community members, affirms their sacredness - as they are created in the image of God - and asserts their deservedness of a dignified and respectful work environment. On Wednesday, President Trump issued a series of tweets that abruptly announced a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. It is particularly disappointing given that this proclamation falls on the anniversary of President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 that abolished racial discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948. This decision by President Trump reversed a gradual transformation under the Obama administration, which welcomed transgender people to serve openly. President Trump said, "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.” Naming transgender people and their life-saving medical needs a “burden” is cruel, inaccurate, discriminatory, and serves to further push to the margins a population that experiences job discrimination, homelessness, suicide, and hate-motivated violence at devastating rates. As Micah stands firmly within the prophetic tradition that calls us to honor God’s image in one another, so should Presbyterians in this moment. God requires us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor churches have explicitly affirmed the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people for almost forty years. A resolution passed by the 221st General Assembly (2014) entitled, On the Global Crisis for People Who Are LGBT and Their Families: A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Response, “[encouraged] each Presbyterian to hold in prayer our LGBT sisters and brothers in the countries where they are vulnerable around the world” (Minutes, Part I, p.737). It is a painful reality that, indeed, our own country remains one of those where LGBT people, particularly transgender people, are vulnerable and explicitly targeted by our most powerful politician and the systems he influences.

According to the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military. Thousands of transgender people have risked their lives in service to this country including the more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today. Although the President alluded to exorbitant medical costs associated with transgender service members, the reality is that these costs amount to less than a thousandth of one percent of the Defense Department’s annual budget.

Historically, we understand inclusion in military service to be a bell tolling the advance of justice and an affirmation of citizenship and humanity for marginalized groups. This week we also saw the Department of Justice file court papers asserting that the law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. These actions combined represent a clear effort to undermine the rights of LGBT people and to dampen the knell of freedom. We hold close our LGBT neighbors, even as the law of the land tries to push them away, and commit to stand with and defend them against bigotry, exclusion, and demonization. 

  1. As a newcomer to the PCUSA who also happens to be gay, I am very happy to see the leadership of the PCUSA standing up against bigotry and discrimination. We are followers of Christ which means we are to show love and compassion to everyone. Christians wake up!!! It's time to stop the hate and bigotry!!!

    by Rocky Twilley

    August 14, 2017

  2. "Naming transgender people and their life-saving medical needs a “burden” is cruel..." Can someone explain to me how sex re-assignment surgery and the prior and ensuing hormone replacement regimen qualifies as "life-saving medical needs..." Really? It's not "life-saving" I also agree with another comment on this board. The military bans any disability etc. that requires a medication regimen. If you take meds regularly, if you can't eat what they serve you...then you can't serve. It's purely pragmatic. Not many CVS stores out in the middle of jungles and deserts...

    by MC

    August 3, 2017

  3. The chief aim of the church and all its ministers is the spread of the Gospel, not some political agenda! I am saddened to see the stated clerk doing just that. Trump is our president whether we agree with him or not on his words and actions. Our chief aim as Christians is to pray for those in public office, not constantly protest them.

    by Paul Zesewitz

    August 3, 2017

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful words. I totally fail to understand how transgender people are a distraction to those serving.

    by Suzan K Ireland

    August 2, 2017

  5. Once again our Stated Clerk takes on himself to speak the whole church. We should not have to pay for medical expenses of transgenders in the military. A lifelong Presbyterian and second generation Presbyterian pastor

    by Dr Robert Schmeiser

    August 2, 2017

  6. Very sad, though not surprised, to read this from our Stated Clerk. As a retired United States Army Chaplain with over 25 years on active duty in mostly combat arms units, I can say that the President's action is fully in the best interests of our military organizations whose exclusive purpose is to defend our country. Anything that detracts from that mission or siphons off precious resources from it is not an appropriate thing. Many people, while otherwise good citizens, are not fit for service in the military. Transgender persons are among them. Weakening our military by a misplaced advocacy is counter to our nation's defense and an unwarranted political action by a PCUSA denominational official. As we used to say in the Army, we "need to learn to stick to our lane where we belong!"

    by Hershel Don Yancey

    August 2, 2017

  7. Well said, Mr. Stated Clerk! I couldn't agree more, and am glad to see that my church's leaders stand against actions which have the aim of marginalizing people.

    by Kirk Shields

    August 2, 2017

  8. A person must be "fit for duty" to qualify for military service. Gender identity is not a dibilitating health condition. Personally I don't know why flat feet or diabetes would make one "unfit." If a flat-footed diabetic believes they can complete the training and testing they should fight for it. T folks are not asking for special accommodations, if they are capable, let them serve. I think service is a right for those qualified and desiring to serve. Nothing but an inability to do the job should prevent a person from service. Way to go PCUSA.

    by Jessica

    August 1, 2017

  9. Thank you for this supportive statement. Our LGBTQ friends need all the help they can get these days and it makes me proud to be Presbyterian when I read your words.

    by Bonnie Sherman

    August 1, 2017

  10. The point is to end discrimination in all categories. Thank you PUSA. To the last writer's comment, I doubt many people would join the military given the risk to life and limb just to get a free benefit. The number of 15,000+ who are serving their country is far beyond expectation and very impressive.

    by Michael Leccese

    August 1, 2017

  11. I agree with the Stated Clerk in his opening sentence. "They are created in the image of God." Since they are created so wonderfully, then the logical conclusion is that they should not try to change that by changing their gender.

    by George Haugen

    August 1, 2017

  12. Thank you for your clear and forceful statement. I am reassured that this is still a prophetic church.

    by Wayne A Meeks

    August 1, 2017

  13. I'm a member of the LGBT Community and I am glad to be a part of the PCUSA and that the PCUSA show Uncondtional love to all of God Children's regardless of who they are. Keep up the good work PCUSA congregations and staff of the PCUSA Headquarter.

    by Ana Tarver

    August 1, 2017

  14. Thank you. It is so important to have an empathetic Christian voice speaking for justice.

    by Richard Hasbany

    August 1, 2017

  15. I stand with the Presbyterians.

    by Joyce Whittington

    July 31, 2017

  16. I am proud of our Stated clerk J HerbErt Nelson for coming out in support of transgender persons serving in our military😇. We have to be an inclusive community and nation. Thank you Rev Nelson for taking this bold stand.

    by Lucy Janjigian

    July 31, 2017

  17. You have added to the divide of the church once again.

    by Dick Powell

    July 31, 2017

  18. To James Stobs: Did you actually read the entire statement? Our Stated Clerk, the Rev. Dr. Nelson, is not referring to people excluded from even enlisting due to a pre-existing medical condition (such as diabetes or flat feet). The President of the U.S. has just decided, impulsively, to overturn a law and disrupt the lives of over 15,000 people currently in active military service. "According to the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military. Thousands of transgender people have risked their lives in service to this country including the more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today. Although the President alluded to exorbitant medical costs associated with transgender service members, the reality is that these costs amount to less than a thousandth of one percent of the Defense Department’s annual budget." This eloquently-stated and well-documented paragraph in the Stated Clerk's statement addresses some of your questions about costs and focus.

    by Leslie S Vogel

    July 31, 2017

  19. Thirt7 years ago, more or less, our pastor's son went to the Air Force Academy. Some of the staffers at Presbytery gave the parents a hard time about it. Things have changed, I guess. Now it's cool to be in the military. Being in the military is not a right. So the Stated Clerk's point is irrelevant. The military is trying to avoid substantial and predictable expenses, including time when the individual is not fit for duty. This is a prudent decision.

    by Richard Aubrey

    July 31, 2017

  20. Dear Mr. Nelson, Thank you for speaking out clearly and faithfully in support of the transgender community. I'm grateful for your leadership in the PCUSA.

    by Robert Spach

    July 31, 2017

  21. Thank you for stating this position so eloquently. I am a Presbyterian, and believe as Christians we need to stand behind the actions of Christ to be inclusive of our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Trans men and women serving in tge US Military deserve our thanks and praise for putting tbeir lives on the line for our freedom. No matter how they serve, they are taking risks daily. I see this as no different from the support the military provides for the thousands of veterans and active duty men and women who get support for depression, PTSD, and MANY other disorders. Each person is a creation of God, as you wrote, and we need to support them to do their best each and every day.

    by Jennifer Wiehe

    July 31, 2017

  22. I am proud of our PCUSA leaders for continuing to take a stand for this community of human beings!

    by Anna Henry

    July 31, 2017

  23. Thank you, sir, for so explicitly stating the moral case.

    by Barbara Kellam-Scott

    July 31, 2017

  24. Thank you Mr Clerkk

    by John Lowe

    July 31, 2017

  25. I have never understood the bias against people whose condition does not negatively impact your life. I don't understand what a person's gender has to do with their ability to perform their job to the best of their ability. I do not understand how these people who call themselves Christians, pass judgement on people when Jesus did not pass judgement. Perhaps they need new lessons on just who is a Christian and who is a member of a cult, and why.

    by Audrey Battiste

    July 30, 2017

  26. Awesome statement! Thank you for this. This speaks the gospel of God's love to a vulnerable community. For the editor: Transgender is not a verb; it's an adjective. Please take the "ed" off the word "transgendered" (sic) in the headline. After you do, feel free to delete this comment.

    by Susan Barnes

    July 30, 2017

  27. People with diabetes and who have flat feet are barred from the military. Is the Stated Clerk going to speak out against that or just for an alternative sexual lifestyle? It is a known fact that many of these people were entering the military in order to get expensive surgery free of cost. Furthermore, it is a distraction to soldiers fighting. I think PCUSA needs to focus on other things. How about abortion?

    by James Stobs

    July 30, 2017

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