When US military members put on the uniform, they immediately become ambassadors of their particular service and the United States of America. To the general public, most military members look the same. Some have stripes, some have silver or brass on their shoulders, and others even wear religious symbols, but they all fight for the freedom of others and for the most part; they all follow the same rules.
Being a military member of over 14 years myself, I can remember countless briefings where my leaders told all of us in the room that our actions reflect not only upon ourselves, but they reflect upon our particular service and upon the United States of America. We’re also constantly reminded about the oath we gave to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and to obey the orders of those appointed over us, but I don’t recall repeating anything regarding religion or spirituality in any of the oaths I’ve taken. So why is it that we so often turn a blind eye when it comes to religious matters and our Chaplains?
Most of our Chaplains are great and are known from providing spiritual guidance, counseling, and even fighting for the religious freedoms of others. I commend them for doing those things, but I also have a problem with other things they do; like giving invocations at public events. Chaplains wear the uniform as well and when they give invocations, they “imply government endorsed religion”, which is against the guidelines that they’re supposed to be following. Like the rest of us, Chaplains are ambassadors as well and should be treated as such. If military members can’t protest in uniform or “speak freely” about their leaders, then Chaplains shouldn’t be allowed to proselytize and push their beliefs upon others by preaching and praying to audiences made up of people who aren’t there to be preached to.
Many Chaplains say the First Amendment of the US Constitution protects their right to worship and pray. I agree, but not when their beliefs envade my own. When I attend an awards ceremony or graduation, that is not a time that I want to be preached to. I prefer to practice my spirituality amongst people who share my beliefs, not a room full of people made up of various or no spiritual beliefs. Invocations at military events destroy the concept of “Separation of Church and State” and should not be how we operate in the US armed forces. Presidents of the United States offer moments of silence (not prayers) at times of tragedy and Chaplains should do the same. And do we really need a moment of silence before a graduation or awards ceremony?