On the night of July 3, 1999, Private Barry Winchell, a twenty-one-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was brutally murdered because he was gay. In violation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" policy of the Department of Defense regarding the sexual orientation and conduct of service members, in violation of the military's good order and discipline, and in violation of the most fundamental of human rights, Barry Winchell was relentlessly taunted, harassed and murdered in his sleep.
We deplore this crime of hate and violence and call the Army, the Department of Defense and the highest levels of our government to create a command climate and military environment where such violence cannot occur.
More than four decades ago the Armed Forces of our nation took the lead against crimes of discrimination and racism in the military. More than two decades ago the American military addressed itself to the inequalities of gender bias. Today all occupational specialties, except the most dangerous and demanding, are open to both women and men. Now the Armed Forces must create an environment where a person's sexual preference is not the basis for discrimination, and where gays and lesbians enjoy the same rights and security as heterosexual persons.
At this season of Christmas, we remember not only the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but also Herod's brutal slaughter of countless innocent children. Barry Winchell's murder is an example of the fear and hate and violence of which we are still capable. There is no better way to honor the birth of Jesus than to prepare a world where he can be born, nurtured and protected in the birth and life of every person.
The Rt. Rev. Charles L. Keyser
Bishop for the Armed Forces
The Rev. George E. Packard
Bishop-elect for the Armed Forces
1 January 2000