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The rainbow, the cross and the crescent clash in the Australian Defence Force

By Bernard Gaynor - posted Friday, 31 January 2014

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has tackled determined opponents over the past 15 years in Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. While weary, it is now battle-hardened and enjoys strong public support. However, these achievements are at risk from a more insidious threat: political correctness. If defeated, the ADF will be weakened morally and mentally and lose the support of ordinary Australians.

Australia cannot afford this. Global security is uncertain while ASIO continues to report a high internal security threat. Yet under the former Labor Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, the ADF turned its focus from protecting Australia’s national interests to radical social change.

In the process, it was politicised.


I can provide informed comment on these matters. As an Intelligence Officer, I served in a full-time capacity from 1999 until 2011, deploying to Iraq on three occasions. From mid-2011 I have continued serving in the Army Reserve, but now face the loss of my commission.

My crime was to express personal opinions, based on my Catholic beliefs, regarding homosexuality and the Islamic religion.

In doing so, I did not breach any Defence laws or policies. In fact, Defence hierarchy tried charging me, but all 12 counts were discontinued when they reached the Director of Military Prosecution’s desk. He found that there was no prospect of conviction. Prior to this, the ADF Investigative Service reported that I had not breached any military laws. A second high-level administrative investigation with extensive powers examined whether I was anti-homosexual, anti-woman, anti-transgender and racist. It also concluded that allegations against me were unsubstantiated. However, despite being cleared in every investigation, the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF), General David Hurley, has proceeded with administrative action to terminate my commission.

This sets a dangerous precedent that is detrimental to ADF capability, internal discipline and retention of public support. This can be seen with the ADF’s approach to the controversial subject of Islam.

I believe that the Islamic religion is inherently violent and a predominantly political ideology with a well-developed legal rationale justifying armed conflict. This fits the actions of those who battle the ADF or seek to impose terror within Australia. As such, my view is that it is not in Australia’s interests to have a rapidly increasing Islamic population. This contrasts with the politically-correct belief that Islam is a peaceful religion and that a growing Islamic minority benefits all Australians. It is not illegal to hold either view but it is illegal for any Australian employer to discriminate on the basis of religious belief. Furthermore, just as it is not illegal to campaign to change laws regarding marriage, it is also not illegal to support changes to laws regarding immigration.

It is undeniable that Islam plays some kind of role in recent military conflict, hence it is in the ADF’s and the nation’s interest to understand it. Unfortunately, I was investigated for racism at the behest of the Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service (DEFGLIS) simply for expressing this view on my blog. Even though I was cleared, the continued pursuit of termination based on ‘evidence’ of ‘unacceptable behaviour’ because I blogged that those with the same belief as the Taliban should not be allowed in the country sends a very clear message: ADF members cannot express opinions about Islam or critically examine its ideology, even as private citizens.


This is absurd. The ADF is placing the religious beliefs of its enemies above scrutiny, ignoring the principles of war. Successful commanders understand every aspect of the threat.

Even if one assumes that Islam is peaceful, this politically-correct approach prevents the ADF from developing any coherent plan to use those teachings on the battlefield. If Islam is peaceful, its teachings would provide the most powerful weapon against misguided but violent Islamic groups, undermining their confidence and ideological beliefs. Even if this did not destroy the will to fight, it would provide a potent means of separating threats from local Islamic populations and starving them of support.

It is impossible for the ADF to understand Islam if soldiers must believe it is beyond reproach. Furthermore, as a practising Catholic, I know what it means to be religious. I understand why religious people will do things that are not rational in a secular sense. It is a useful insight for any Intelligence Officer. Defence loses this understanding when it pursues policies that force devout Christians from service.

Unfortunately, in the clash between Christian values and homosexual political activism, the ADF hierarchy have made it clear that Christians are going to lose their voice or be sacked. This is despite ADF policies that:

·         encourage members to practise their religious beliefs,

·         recognise uniformed political activity is not supported in our democracy,

·         permit members to join political parties, conduct political activity and even run for office, but as private citizens without Defence support,

·         prohibit promotion of one form of sexuality over another,

·         prohibit sexually-explicit activity in ADF activities, events and social functions,

·         prohibit discrimination and harassment on political, religious and sexual grounds, and

·         give commanders the responsibility to prevent unacceptable behaviour.

For the record, I support these policies and want them enforced. However, it is clear that there are blatant double standards. This reduces morale and results in disciplinary failures. When it involves attacks on long-held Christian beliefs and the ADF’s violation of democratic conventions, it also jeopardises recruitment and community support.

These double-standards became very apparent in January 2013, when I nominated to contest the Federal Election with Katter’s Australian Party. During the national debate on Labor’s proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws, I stated that I would not allow homosexuals to teach my children (the end result of those proposed changes). At this point the ADF stepped in. It did not matter that it was into a political debate regarding education and human rights, nor that it pertained to my civilian work. Furthermore, no credence was given to my Catholic beliefs or the right that parents have to determine the religious education of their children, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Instead, my commanding officer informed me that the Chief of Army had taken an interest in my views, and labelled them offensive and unacceptable. Essentially, Defence had formed the opinion that homosexuals have every right to teach my children, regardless of my parental consent. Defence released a public briefing stating that my views were ‘inappropriate’. I was told that personal political activity was unprofessional and pressured to resign.

From that point, I was not permitted to take part in any Defence activities. Throughout 2013, I received no workplace guidance, no performance report and was not permitted to parade. The ADF only contacted me to state that I was going to be investigated, charged or discharged due to my political and religious beliefs. I was even denied permission to receive my Long Service Medal in uniform.

The CDF even wrote to me on 22 August 2013, stating:

“I respect your religious beliefs and your right to have, and express, opinions contrary to

ADF and Government policy. However your public articulation of these matters whilst a

member of the Army Reserve, whether or not you are on duty, or in uniform, undermine my confidence in you ability to uphold the values of the Australian Army and your effectiveness as a leader in today's Army.”


This is in stark contrast to the ADF’s treatment of homosexual officers over the last 12 months.

·         DEFGLIS has campaigned for homosexual marriage and to remove rights and funding from religious organisations, including schools. It did so as a Defence lobby group.


·         The DEFGLIS Chairman, Squadron Leader Vince Chong, appeared before a parliamentary inquiry to support homosexual marriage and later received a Defence Force commendation for his leadership of DEFGLIS.


·         The CDF protected Lieutenant Colonel Paul Morgan from disciplinary action after he appeared on the ABC’s 730 in uniform and criticised ADF policy and its hierarchy, complaining that homosexuals were unfairly treated.


·         Shortly before this, the Australian Democrats announced that this officer was a member of their party, using his military rank, and stating that he would lead the Army’s Mardi Gras contingent.


·         The CDF approved participation in the Mardi Gras, despite its sexually-explicit nature and constitution stating that political activity is a key object of the parade. ADF personnel marched with Labor, the Greens, Australian Marriage Equality and the Wikileaks Party, as well as groups of almost entirely naked men from organisations such as Body Electric Inc and the Sydney Leather Pride Association, whose official parade description stated that they were ‘perverts’. Defence members joined with these groups parading past children. This marks the first time that Defence has officially joined a political rally in Australia and it did so during heated debate over homosexual marriage and a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.


·         ADF personnel also marched with groups who insulted Christians, carrying signs stating that ‘Jesus is Gay’. This is hypocritical when contrasted with the ADF’s concern not to offend those who revere the Islamic religion. When I complained, I was informed that there was no evidence that Defence participation was offensive to me or any other Christians.


·         The Chief of Army’s transgender speechwriter, Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor, publicly denigrated Catholic beliefs and called my father (a full-time serving officer) and I “failures” on Twitter. The message was addressed to the CDF.


·         Comments from this officer on a Catholic blog included statements asking if “cattleman was your occupation or your sexual preference” and were signed off with the words “Cate McGregor AM – suck on that f*ckwit”.


·         Lieutenant Colonel McGregor was counselled after the ADF found these statements breached unacceptable behaviour policy. As a comparison, I am facing termination even though all investigations have cleared me. Furthermore, I have received no apology, nor any acknowledgment from Defence that these actions were unacceptable. Since then this officer has given numerous uniformed media interviews detailing his close friendship with the Chief of Army and claiming his full support, while continuing to refer to me as an ‘online bully’.


·         The Australian Army released cuff-links and lapel pins with the Rising Sun on a rainbow backdrop, clearly breaching ADF policy forbidding the promotion of one form of sexuality over another.

Consequently, I submitted internal complaints detailing how ADF policy has been breached or inconsistently applied based on sexual orientation. These complaints were either dismissed, or disciplinary or administrative action was brought against me. As a result of this and the ADF’s public attack on my religious and political beliefs, I have been left with no option but to defend myself publicly. 

The community feedback that I have received shows that there is great concern about the direction of the Australian military. Parents have told me that they will no longer allow their children to join. This is concerning and should worry Defence hierarchy. The CDF himself acknowledged that recruitment is an issue when he issued my Termination Notice. However, he laid the blame for that at my feet, and ignored the disdain that many ordinary Australians feel for Defence’s recent policy changes permitting sex-change operations, front-line military service for females and homosexual political activity. Others can judge whether he is shooting the messenger.

Tthese sentiments are also reflected in comments from other serving personnel, some of them very senior soldiers. There is a growing sense of unease within the ranks. The recent finding that Defence morale is at its lowest level since surveys began in 2006 probably reflects much weariness from a decade in Afghanistan. But it is impossible to identify precisely what impact social engineering has had because the ADF will not ask soldiers for their opinion on these issues. Meanwhile surveys are organised to see if changes to Mess Dress are supported.

I might be the first officer to have my commission terminated for expressing views at odds with Defence’s homosexual lobby. But if I am, I also won’t be the last. That might make some feel good, but it will lower public support for the military, hurt recruitment and reduce the ADF’s intellectual capability to wage war. This is not in Australia’s interests.

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About the Author

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of seven children and formerly served as an officer in the Australian Regular Army, deploying to the Middle East on three occasions. He was recognised with the United Stated Meritorious Service Medal for his service in Iraq. He strongly defends conservative family values at his blog, Bernard is the founder of the Defence Force Conservative Action Network and a member of the Cherish Life Qld Inc. Executive Committee.

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