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Eradicating doctrinally orthodox chaplains in the Canadian military

Will the U.S. military soon follow its northern neighbor?


Eradicating doctrinally orthodox chaplains in the Canadian military
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Christian military chaplains are under assault once again—this time in Canada. It is not just an attack on individual clergy in the military. Instead, this action forces military chaplains to be complicit in indoctrinating service members in anti-religion sexual orthodoxies or resign. The U.S. military could face similar challenges soon.

A panel authorized by the Canadian government recently recommended getting rid of morally orthodox military chaplains of the “Abrahamic faiths” because their views are not inclusive enough. Indeed, Christians are accused (in Section 6 of the panel’s report) of “causing suffering and generational trauma and genocide” to “many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited members of Canadian society. … And Indigenous Peoples have suffered unimaginable generational trauma and genocide at the hands of Christian religious leaders. …” Also targeted are “some churches’ exclusion of women from their priesthood,” which demonstrates the “sexist notions embedded in their religious dogmas.”

Let’s take a step back and look at what military chaplains do and then at what can be done to protect their crucial service to our troops. A U.S. or Canadian military chaplain is a trained religious professional who is also commissioned as a military officer. First, he or she is qualified through seminary and ministry practice before joining the military as a representative of a religious “endorsing agency.” Contemporary chaplains typically are considered non-combatants but go through officer commissioning and military education like other officers.

Chief among a chaplain’s duties is religious ministry, which recognizes that military service presents unique challenges to exercising religious rights when cloistered on a military base or deployed abroad. The existence of military chaplains also indicates there are ultimate questions of life and death that are inevitably raised in situations of stress and violence.

Chaplains must ensure religious requirements are met for all members of the military community and accomplish this by offering venues, times, spaces, resources, and personnel to meet the spiritual needs of the troops from all faiths. For example, a Protestant chaplain might bring a civilian Catholic priest and a rabbi onto the installation to serve Catholics and Jews.

The Canadian advisory panel’s recommendations are couched as “modernizing” the chaplaincy, but panel members did not offer suggestions for equipment upgrades or physical training. Instead, all their recommendations involved sentiments, values, and beliefs that counter traditional military and faith-based values. Former Canadian International Religious Freedom Ambassador Andrew Bennett rightly calls this “theological cleansing.”

Radical progressives would love to re-form the ethics of young soldiers in an environment of strict obedience. Chaplains stand in the way.

Part of what is at stake here is the effort to remake the values structure of Canada’s military. Radical progressives would love to re-form the ethics of young soldiers in an environment of strict obedience. Chaplains stand in the way.

One place that reflects this change is the Canadian Boot Camp & Military Fitness Institute’s home page. One would expect to see the Canadian armed forces’ traditional values—duty, loyalty, integrity, courage—at the top of the page. This is not the case. They’ve been relegated to second place after a new set of military values.

Canada’s nouveau military values begin with “Respect the dignity of all persons” followed by “obey and support lawful authority.” DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) principles are even more blatant in the panel’s recommendations on chaplains. The recommendations warn of right-wing nationalists in the ranks, apparently linking the faith commitments of moral traditionists in the chaplaincy with the phantom of violent extremism.

Again, this is not just an assault on individual chaplains who want to pray in Jesus’ name or refuse to officiate over same-sex marriages. Nor is this just the exclusion of morally orthodox rabbis, imams, and pastors. This is a declaration of war on those who hold morally orthodox, especially Biblical, views.

As Canada’s Catholic military ordinary Bishop Scott Craig has written, these recommendations spurn Canada’s rich religious history and defy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Insidiously, the panel demands the recruitment of only liberal chaplains. Furthermore, chaplains must participate in indoctrinating service members on the new liberal value system, as indicated in the title of Section 6, “Re-Defining Chaplaincy.”

What happens in Canada is often a bitter foretaste of what many want to bring to the United States. We have already seen the beginning of this in the new diversity training foisted on U.S. troops. Citizens must call out the lie that indicts Biblical Christianity for “genocide” and “generational trauma.”

Christians and their orthodox religious allies must demand that their legislators put a stop to the witch-hunting of chaplains and the grandiose social reengineering schemes of radical progressives. Religious freedom for everyone in the military is good for our service personnel, their families, and our countries.

Eric Patterson

Eric Patterson is president of the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C., and past dean of the School of Government at Regent University. He is the author or editor of 15 books, including Just American Wars, Politics in a Religious World, and Ending Wars Well.

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