David Skeel: The Military Balance of Faith and Freedom

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The military isn't simply a profession—it's a life. The line between public and private is vanishingly small. (This is one reason why the military can still punish misbehavior like adultery.) Mr. Page therefore has a powerful point when he complains that he had no way to avoid proselytizing comments and prayers by chaplains at formal West Point events. But his Christian colleagues are in a similar bind. There is nowhere else for them to take their faith.

Military chaplains are a key player in this matter. Isn't it a First Amendment-violating "establishment of religion" for the military to appoint religious officials? No, it isn't, because if the military didn't provide chaplains, religious believers would be cut off from public worship in many military settings. The chaplains exist not for the military or the government generally, but to give military men and women access to their religion.

The problem is how to achieve this objective without creating an environment that seems to associate the military with particular religious views.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted December 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jim the Puritan wrote:

I once took an informational course at church on the history and function of the Chaplains Corps in the military, taught by an Air Force Chaplain.  Among their responsibilities is being the “conscience” of the commanding officer.  In other words, if the chaplain sees conduct that the chaplain believes goes against the code of military conduct or Geneva Conventions or is otherwise immoral or unethical—especially as regards how noncombatants and enemy soldiers are being treated—the chaplain has a duty to inform and if necessary confront the commanding officer with the situation, and take it higher up the chain if the commanding officer does not take steps to address the improper conduct going on.  So the chaplain is seen as being a moderating influence on excesses that might otherwise occur.  They also provide some assurance to those serving in the military that they will not be called on to act in ways that would be immoral or violate human rights.

December 28, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
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