(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Air Force admits that the chaplain's office at Andrews Air Force Base retracted an invitation to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins--a former Marine officer--to speak at a prayer luncheon held at the base on Thursday after the conservative leader criticized President Obama’s efforts to end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell"--the military policy on homosexuality.
“The Chaplain’s Office retracted Mr. Perkins’ invitation after his recent public comments made many who planned to attend the event uncomfortable,” the Andrews base public affairs office said in a statement issued late Thursday.
“This was a local decision made by the Chaplain’s Office who wanted the luncheon to be inclusive for the entire base community," the statement said. "The Chaplain’s Office respects and defends Mr. Perkins right to express his opinions, and regrets any inconvenience to him. We thank and respect him for his prior military service.”
Perkins told CNSNews.com he was invited last October by the Chaplain’s Office to speak at the prayer luncheon, which focused this year on deployed personnel, families and prayer.
“The theme was back to basics – that is exactly what I was going to talk about, the basics – as Christ talks about the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love your neighbor,” he told CNSNews.com.
But Perkins said the comments that got him in trouble were published on the FRC Web site on Jan. 27, after President Obama delivered his State of the Union address.
Obama called on Congress to lift all restrictions on service in the military by open homosexuals, and Perkins admitted he had been very vocal in opposing Obama’s policy. Perkins said he took to the FRC Web site to oppose Obama’s policy proposal, and urged Congress to retain the current law which excludes homosexuals from openly serving in the military.
“Two days after the president’s State of the Union address, I received a letter from the chaplain rescinding the invitation, based upon statements that were on our Web site that were deemed to be ‘incompatible with men and women who serve in the military at the direction of the commander-in-chief,’” Perkins said.
A letter, dated Jan. 29, was sent from the chaplain's office at Andrews AFB.
“Dear Mr. Perkins: I wish to thank you for accepting our initial invitation to speak at our national prayer luncheon on Feb. 25,” it stated. “(H)owever, we must rescind the invitation due to statements posted on the Family Research Council Web site which are incompatible in our role as military members who serve our elected officials and our commander-in-chief.
“As a former Marine officer, I’m sure you understand the situation in which we find ourselves. As military members, we are sworn to support our commander-in-chief, and are forbidden to make or support statements which run counter to our roles in the armed forces.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told CNSNews.com he is "terribly disappointed” with the decision to rescind the invitation to the conservative leader--a move he condemned as “tragic” and “political correctness.”
“It is absolutely political correctness, if in the name of inclusiveness we throw out someone who is a Christian or has a view that might be a little bit different than Mr. Obama’s, then we’ve dishonored the very service that fights to uphold and defend the Constitution,” Franks said from the U.S. Capitol.
“It’s especially heartbreaking to me, knowing that the rank-and-file of the United States military is far more in line with the views of Tony Perkins than they will ever be of the views of President Barack Obama,” Franks told CNSNews.com.
Perkins, a conservative leader who is also a minister and former military officer, said he had no intention of being political, had he been allowed to speak.
“I would have never used this venue as a political venue to even mention the president, unless it was to pray for him,” Perkins told CNSNews.com. “This was to focus on the spiritual needs of the men and women in uniform.”
Congressman Franks, meanwhile, indicated he plans to further raise the issue in Congress and took aim at the Air Force's notion of being "inclusive."
“We can be ‘inclusive’--we could bring Al Qaeda in there and that’s 'inclusive'--but to suggest somehow that someone like Tony Perkins shouldn’t be welcome on a military base because he has some views that are antithetical to some of Barack Obama’s views, is just outrageous," Franks said.
Perkins, meanwhile, said he’s unrepentant in opposing Obama’s pro-homosexual agenda.
“What he (the president) was essentially calling the military to do was to violate the law, without a change by Congress,” Perkins told CNSNews.com. “That change of policy would in fact affect national security and in fact affect the lives of men and women who serve in uniform. As a veteran of the Marine Corps, I know exactly the environment and what this could do to the men and women who serve. So it is very troubling.”
Dr. William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York City condemned the action – and called for an investigation.
“The decision to silence Tony Perkins, an ordained minister and Marine veteran, represents political correctness at a dangerous level,” Donahue said. “There are legitimate reasons to accept and reject the current policy regarding gays in the military. No one, therefore, should be censored from speaking at any private or public forum -- much less a military instillation -- because of his or her views on this subject.”
Perkins, meanwhile, said the real issue isn’t that he was disinvited to an event – it’s about political correctness in the military on homosexuality.
“This is not about the chaplain, it’s not even about Andrews Air Force Base, it’s about the chilling effect that this policy would have upon Christians who operate from an understanding of what’s right and wrong according to Scripture,” Perkins told CNSNews.com.
Donahue agreed: “While the most immediate issue is the blacklisting of Perkins, the larger issue is the ‘chilling effect’ this decision will have on the free speech and religious liberty rights of all those who serve in the military, especially clergymen."
CNSNews.com has formally requested an interview with a representative from the chaplain’s office.