The Navy’s Chaplain Trouble

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 11 months ago

The Department of the Navy provides corpsmen and other medical support to the Marines, and similarly, Chaplains are provided to both the Navy and Marines from the Department of the Navy.  When the Department of the Navy has problems, it can effect two branches of the military.

And the Department of the Navy is having Chaplain problems.  The problems with Chaplains have not been restricted to the Navy.  And to be more specific, the problems are not per se with the Chaplains, but with societal changes (and to some degree political correctness) that have made their way into policy, policy that effects the way Chaplains do business, e.g., the freedom to evangelize, to pray in the name of Christ, to preach sermons publicly that are exclusive (‘this’ is true and ‘that’ is false).  The Air Force recently attempted to regulate such things by issuing the Air Force Interim Guidelines on the Free Exercise of Religion.  The Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel responded with a stinging ‘knock-down’ critique of the guidelines (other parties responded as well).  The Air Force subsequently issued Revised Interim Guidelines.  As a result, further responses ensued, and it appears that the Air Force guidelines have been permanently rescinded.  But this action was taken only after major legal battles were conducted by one Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who literally waged a one-man war to retain previously recognized rights.

But the problems don’t end with the Navy (and Air Force) waging internecine warfare against the religious among them.  There are forty one “evangelicals” who are involved in a class action law suit against the Navy for things related to the oversight, promotion and freedom of Navy Chaplains.  The charges include things such as favoritism of so-called ‘liturgical’ Chaplains over evangelicals, illegal quotas, blackballing, prejudice, etc.  To the best of our knowledge, this law suit has not run its course.

But reminiscent of the keystone cops, the Navy is not finished.  In the next volley, Strategy Page is reporting that Navy Chaplains are being reprogrammed.

October 18, 2006: The U.S. Navy is sending its chaplains back to school. The navy believes that new chaplains, sent to a ship, and serving with that ship for many years, get out of touch with the rest of the Chaplains Corps (over 800 clergy, from dozens of different faiths). To make the training program possible, about fifty chaplains will be withdrawn from serving on  ships. This will leave some smaller ships without a chaplain. And this has caused some chaplains, and sailors, to complain that the training program would mean that chaplains, coming out of the training, would be assigned to a different ship than they had come from. This would break continuity. Chaplains often serve with the same ship for many years, and thus get to know the officers, crew and families very well. Thus it is believed that all the reassignments required to carry out this training program will destroy this continuity. The navy won’t back down, especially since there have been lawsuits of late by groups of chaplains (usually from the same faith), protesting real, or imagined, injustices. The training program is meant to make sure all the chaplains are at least on the same page with what they are supposed to be doing for the navy.

The Navy just keeps blowing it.  The Navy does ships right, and Chaplains poorly.  The Navy might benefit from a common understanding of what the Chaplain is supposed to be doing.  It is not the job of the Chaplain to stay in touch with other faiths, or to do anything, per se, for the Navy.  The service of the Chaplain is directly to the Sailor, whether enlisted or officer.  It is the people whom the Chaplain serves, not the Navy or the U.S. government.  Until the Navy learns this, the internecine warfare will continue, and the real loser will be the Sailor and Marine.


You are currently reading "The Navy’s Chaplain Trouble", entry #346 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published October 19th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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