Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Military chaplains and religious expression

On the occasion of the issuance of these guidelines, the Washington Post offers these three stories.

While reporter Alan Cooperman (whose pieces on religion I generally find fair) catches almost everything, he doesn’t note this important proviso in the guidelines:

[T]here may be extraordinary circumstances where the potential benefits [of prayer] for the welfare of the
command outweigh the potential of causing discomfort. These circumstances might include mass
casualties, preparation for imminent combat, and natural disasters.

He also doesn’t note that the guidelines permit a moment of silence on routine occasions.

In general, the guidelines, which apply now only to the Air Force but may be extended to all the services, strike me as a commonsensical response to religious pluralism, urging accommodation of the religious needs of servicemen and women, placing national service and solidarity at the forefront of everyone’s concerns, and reminding officers that the hierarchical (I use this word self-consciously) nature of military service gives officers a special responsibility to avoid confusing their subordinates. These, by the way, are not the guidelines issued by a "theocracy."

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