Arrest of James Yee Prompts Review of Military Chaplain Selection Process

September 28, 2003

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On September 28, 2003 The San Francisco Chronicle reported that "neither military nor civilian authorities have brought formal charges against [Chaplain James] Yee, but after his arrest the Pentagon says it has begun a review of the admittedly ad hoc process it has used for years to select and train chaplains of all faiths.

The review accompanies an assessment of all security procedures at Guantanamo Bay begun in light of the arrests of Yee on Sept. 10 and Air Force Special Airman Ahmad al-Halabi, an Arabic translator, on July 23...

Whether the chaplains are Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist, the military relies on religious groups themselves to recommend and to educate their own candidates. The military says that because of the constitutional provisions that govern the separation of church and state, only churches and religious organizations can ordain or appoint their own clergy.

With Muslim chaplains, however, this has proved particularly problematic, especially since Islam has no centralized hierarchy... After more than 10 years of accepting the recommendations of Muslim groups, the military says it will now re-evaluate the requirements for individual chaplains and the religious groups that nominate chaplain candidates to the military."