Chief of Chaplains office investigates war chaplain's use of baptismal pool
A recent Miami Herald war dispatch about Army chaplain Josh Llano has led to an investigation by the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains.

Embedded Herald staff writer Meg Laughlin wrote in an April 4 story that Llano has a 500-gallon baptismal font at the U.S. base "Camp Bushmaster" in Iraq that he uses to attract soldiers to his sermons. The story says that the "pool of pristine, cool water" is a rarity during a water shortage that has kept soldiers from bathing for weeks. Before they can get in, Laughlin reports, they have to listen to Llano's sermons and participate in a one-hour baptism.

"It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized," the story quotes Llano as saying. "Regardless of their motives, I get the chance to take them closer to the Lord."

Since the story ran, several organizations have alleged that Llano is coercing baptisms and crossing church-state lines. The backlash led to an investigation by Army Chief of Chaplains Gaylord Gunhus. He told reporters last week that Llano was probably just joking with soldiers.

"I have confidence in my chaplains," Gunhus said. "It had nothing to do with keeping people from having water or anything at all. Speculation is, he was jesting with a bunch of folks."

Pentagon spokeswoman Martha Rudd said that there is plenty of water at "Camp Bushmaster." She added that Llano's pool is intentionally only for baptisms. "Neither the Army nor the Army Chief of Chaplains approves of religious coercion, but reports we've gotten indicate that's not what this was at all," Rudd told Scripps Howard. "We don't have any information at this time that the chaplain was coercing anyone. ...

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