Limitations of a Military Chaplain
A paper submitted to Dr. Jim Fisher, PhD.
In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for
the course CHPL 600
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The fathers of the United States founded this nation on a principle of religious freedom, and it has since become the leading nation in peaceful pluralistic living. The United States Army is a direct reflection of this nation with respect to the pluralistic culture. Men and women of the United States have fought and died to secure this freedom, and as a chaplain, he or she must continue to do all to defend the fundamental right to free exercise of religion. During the course of a Chaplain's ministry, due in part to their role as an agent of the government, he or she will indeed encounter some perceived limitations as compared to the civilian pastorate. It is the intent of this study to explore the limitations imposed upon an Army Chaplain as an agent of the government. The First Amendment
Foundationally speaking, the Army is an establishment of the government and therefore draws upon the US Constitution for its foundational regulations. As such, the First Amendment of the Constitution declares that congress may not establish a State Religion and they may not enact any law to prohibit the free exercise of any religion (US Constitution). To the Chaplain, this establishes the premise for his/her ministry, in that the Chaplain must provide for and protect the free exercise of all soldiers and families regardless of the faith of the Chaplain. It is imperative that this fundamental right be protected by the Chaplain. Failure to do so will give cause for the Chaplain Corps to once again come under attack and potentially be found unconstitutional. Chaplains must understand that taxpayers are paying them to provide for the free exercise of religion for all soldiers and their families. Therefore, the First Amendment not only gives cause for the position of the Chaplain, but it further protects and establishes a guideline for the Chaplain's ministry. Paget and McCormack offer a great summarization of the limitations that the First Amendment places on the Chaplain in their book The Work of the Chaplain. "United States law prohibits the chaplain from taking abusive advantage of his or her rank, position, or circumstances to evangelize, proselytize, or otherwise coerce or influence a person whose faith is different from the chaplain's own" (Paget 2010, 44). Overall, due to the pluralistic nature of the military and for the protection of the free exercise of religion, the needs of each soldier must remain paramount to the beliefs of the Chaplain. However, this does not imply that the Chaplain must compromise his/her faith to meet the needs of the soldier, but that he or she must perform or provide for the needs of all soldiers. US Code
As is known within governmental agencies, multiple laws, codes, and regulations exist to provide clarity and refinement. As for the Chaplain Corps, this refinement is next found in the US Code. The United States Code Title 10 Section 3547 indicates specific responsibilities that the chaplain will perform as a part of providing for the free exercise of religion (US Code Title 10). While this is clearly an extension of the First Amendment, it does provide more clear direction as to the limitations for a military Chaplain. Included in these responsibilities are performing weekly religious services for all soldiers in the chaplain's unit. Additionally, it establishes that the chaplain must perform burial services for soldiers who die in the unit for which they serve. While this certainly does not appear to limit the Chaplain from the outset, it does narrow the scope for what the Chaplain is responsible. It places "limitations" on what the Chaplain should focus on; in essence it provides...