Military Chaplains Controversy Continues

January 20, 2006

Source: Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

On January 20, 2006 Religion and Ethics Newsweekly ran a feature article on chaplains in the U.S. Military. Deborah Potter reports, "At Dallas Theological Seminary, it's recruiting day... Students at this evangelical Protestant seminary are prime targets for groups like the National Association of Evangelicals that endorse, or recommend, future military chaplains... Archbishop Edwin O'Brien oversees the military's Catholic chaplains, whose numbers have dwindled even as evangelical Christians flocked to the chaplaincy... O'Brien says some evangelical chaplains are now telling servicemen that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ... The issue came to a head last year at the Air Force Academy, where complaints by Jewish cadets and others of proselytizing by evangelical officers and cadets led to a Pentagon investigation.

In response, the air force issued new interim guidelines telling chaplains to be 'sensitive to those who do not welcome offerings of faith,' and in public settings or where attendance is mandatory, to offer only brief 'nonsectarian' prayers. That didn't sit well with some on Capitol Hill... Republican Walter Jones and more than 70 other members of Congress want President Bush to intervene, and more than 200,000 supporters have signed a petition seeking an executive order to protect the right of chaplains to pray according to their faith... For now, the air force guidelines for chaplains remain under review. The Pentagon says if they're finally adopted and they prove workable, those guidelines will become the standard for all branches of the military."