Southern Baptist Leaders Say Women In Combat Move a 'Tragic Mistake'

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's announcement that the military will remove its ban on women in combat drew criticism from several Southern Baptist leaders, who expressed concern over privacy and military effectiveness and also warned the move is part of a larger societal effort to blur differences between men and women. 

Panetta made his announcement Thursday (Jan. 24), saying the removal of the ban had unanimous approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With the removal, about 237,000 positions on or near the front lines of combat are now open to women.

"If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual orientation," Panetta said.

President Obama also announced his support for the move, saying "every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love."

Although Panetta implied the qualifications for service would not change, the opposite could be the case. Politico.com said military officials are reviewing "how to create a gender-neutral way to test troops' abilities to complete the tasks." The news site also said "the Marine Corps ... will test 400 female Marines and 400 male Marines this summer for physical fitness to determine if the recruiting PT tests need to be changed to make them gender-neutral." 

The change raised a question that was not addressed: Will young women eventually be required to register for Selective Service, as young men ages 18-25 currently are required to do, in the event of a draft? 

The move did come with one caveat, as reported by American Forces Press: Exceptions could be made to keep some positions closed to women, but only by approval from the defense secretary.

Terri Stovall, dean of women's programs and associate professor of women's ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said the change is a bad idea. 

"There are biological and logistical considerations that make this a difficult situation: accommodations will have to be made to account for differences in physical strength, living quarters will have to be adjusted -- not to mention the issue of pregnancies," Stovall told Baptist Press. "The first time a woman lays down her life for our country and we discover she was pregnant, what will be the outcry then? If culture wants to claim equality, then everything should be equal and that is impossible to achieve."

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Michael Foust
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