Military Culture War
As evangelicals increase their share of the military chaplain corps, their intent to evangelize more openly is challenging the pluralism promoted in official ceremonies by some other chaplains and military leadership.
The controversy extends across U.S. military branches. Military leaders say there is no problem when evangelicals worship during sacred ceremonies, but they assert that official ceremonies require prayers that do not exclude other major religions.
Billy Baugham, executive director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, told CT that more than 20 chaplains have contacted him claiming discrimination for praying in Jesus' name.
"The pressure to curtail evangelical chaplains from using the name of our Lord is pandemic," Baugham said. "If we can't correct this, there is going to be a class-action lawsuit, and we're going to take it to the courts."
Under pressure from evangelicals and members of Congress, the Air Force issued revised guidelines on religious expression February 10. The new guidelines emphasize the Constitution's free exercise clause more than its prohibition against government establishment of religion.
The original guidelines issued in August discouraged public prayers at routine events, saying that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements. They now add that there are no restrictions in situations "where it is reasonably clear that the discussions are personal, not official, and they can be reasonably free of the potential for, or appearance of, coercion."
Navy Chaplain Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt earned national attention during his 18-day hunger strike that ended January 7. Klingenschmitt, protesting what he called restrictions on ...