Category Archives: guidelines

What do you think of this chaplain’s actions?

According to an Army Times article, a Christian Broadcasting Network report with journalist Chuck Holton, and an interview with the Army chaplain at the center of the story on the Daily Signal, the facts are that

– in conducting a suicide prevention program, an Army chaplain presented various sources of non-religious support and help to troops

– the chaplain shared with the troops that, personally, when he was an infantryman, he had found the Psalms and the story of King David and his Christian faith helpful in overcoming depression

– troops are required to attend such suicide prevention programs

– the handout the chaplain gave troops at the end of the session had a list of non-religious resources on one side; on the other, he had written Psalms from the Old Testament Bible

– the chaplain states that he presented his personal approach as just that, personal, and did not indicate any of the options he outlined were mandatory

– some troops objected to being  given, in the handout, religious material at a non-religious, mandatory program

– the Army issued a letter of concern to the chaplain

– “A local letter of concern is not punishment,” according to a statement by Maj. Gen. Scott Miller quoted in the Army Times.  “Rather, it is an administrative counseling tool, with no long-term consequences. By design, letters of concerns are temporary, local administrative actions that are removed from a Soldier’s personnel file upon transfer to another assignment.”

– Gen. Miller, the article continues, further stated that “the role of military chaplains is to serve the religious needs of military members of a unit and their families.  Their role is not to provide religious instruction during non-religious mandatory training classes. Chaplains may appropriately share their personal experiences, but any religious information given by a Chaplain to a military formation should be limited to an orientation of what religious services and facilities are available and how to contact Chaplains of specific faiths.”

– chaplains, who are both ordained clergy and military officers, are typically in charge of these suicide-prevention briefings


Did this Army chaplain overstep his bounds by sharing his faith as a personal aside in a mandated, non-religious program?  Would he have been neglecting his duties as a chaplain endorsed by a Protestant church not to do so?  Should he have not addressed the help many find in religion and spirituality at all?  Was it okay to address the help many find in religion and spirituality but do so more broadly, encouraging troops of all faiths to turn to their church, mosque, temple, synagogue…?   Should the handout have had no references to religion at all?  Should he have listed on the back information on how to get in touch with a representative of one’s own faith tradition? Was the Army right to reprimand the chaplain or out of line?….

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Perform or Provide still holds

Our  post Chaplains once again used as pawns drew an impassioned comment from Thomas Carney, who wrote:

Whoever wrote this is sorely mistaken. The same-sex ceremony garbage has been MANDATED that chaplains WILL perform them and if not, said chaplains must resign their commissions. Military chaplains are also ILLEGALLY ordered not to preach against homosexuality in military chapels. One of the last acts of Adm McMullen as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was to tell all Chiefs of Chaplains that all chaplains MUST be on board with the pro-homosexual agenda. This comes straight from the White House.

Since we could not find any definitive information on-line, we contacted the office of the Army Chief of Chaplains and it appears that, Mr. Carney has less to fear than he thought.  Indeed, the policy of ‘Perform or Provide’ still holds.  Here is what the spokesman for the Army Chief of Chaplains wrote:

 I speak only for the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps.
A Chaplain is not required to perform ANY religious service if doing so
would violate the tenants of his or her religion, personal beliefs or
conscience.  Army Chaplains perform or provide religious services according to the dictates of their faith, personal beliefs, and conscience, consistent with their denomination/endorser, provided those services are not prohibited by applicable state and local law.


Filed under chaplains, chaplains, Church-State, First Amendment, guidelines, military, religion

Chaplains once again used as pawns

Once again, military chaplains are being used to serve a political agenda.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is urging supporters to contact their representatives and urge them to keep in the National Defense Authorization Act language that prevents same-sex marriages from being performed on military installations.  So far, so fine.

But NOM argues that this action protects “the religious liberty of our military chaplains, who could otherwise be forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies as part of their official duties.”  Now, really.  That is simply untrue.  Military chaplains have to follow orders when it comes to their duties as officers, but when it comes to their religious duties they are never required to go against the doctrines of their faith.   Nobody can force a Roman Catholic military chaplain to perform a baptism by immersion if he believes this violates his religious beliefs, so you really think he could be forced to unite two men or two women in matrimony?  That’s what the “Provide or Perform” policy of the military chaplaincy is all about:  to perform for their troops those religious duties they can; and when asked for a ceremony or other religious duty they cannot perform, then they are to provide someone who can.

(Provide or Perform is one of the issues Chaplains Under Fire raises and is the subject of short in  Discussion Matters, the extra-features DVD)


Filed under chaplains, chaplains, DADT, guidelines, military

necessary legislation or political posturing?

Back in 2007 there wasn’t much talk about DADT — but that doesn’t mean chaplains didn’t have to negotiate what sacraments they could or could not perform.  Baptism was one that came up a lot.  Some troops want to be baptized by immersion — and some chaplains simply don’t do that; they sprinkle.  So chaplains talked about finding another chaplain who could give the troop the kind of baptism he wanted.  We never heard of a chaplain being forced to perform a sacrament under duress.  So it is rather puzzling to hear about a bill Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi has put forward “to protect chaplains from being forced to perform marriage ceremonies if the chaplain objects for reasons of conscience.”  This is geared toward making sure chaplains are not forced to perform a same-sex marriage if they believe it is immoral.  Does anyone know whether, say, a Roman Catholic chaplain has ever been forced to perform a marriage where one or both were divorced?  We never heard of any such situation so can’t help but think that this bit of legislation is unnecessary.  But we don’t claim to be omniscience — so please let us know what you know.

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Filed under chaplains, chaplains, Church-State, DADT, guidelines, military, religion