A New Film: Chaplains in the Military.
While MRFF does receive a good number of complaints about chaplains, it is actually far more common in complaints about the pushing of religious beliefs on the troops for the pushing to be coming from a superior officer or senior NCO than from a chaplain. InChaplains Under Fire, one of the chaplains interviewed describes an incident that is very typical of the kind of incidents reported to MRFF. The chaplain recounts what he walked into when he was called in after a member of a Marine unit committed suicide and a senior NCO's pronouncement of his theological opinion had made the situation even more upsetting for the other members of the unit.
"But the evening after, there was a senior staff NCO who talked with the guys, and he stated, 'We've lost one of our Marines, but we need to go forward with the mission that we have, even though right now that individual is burning in hell.' And luckily I came in afterwards, dealing with especially those who were immediately close with him."
Chaplains objecting to this sort of behavior by NCOs, officers, and even other chaplains, is not uncommon. Among the thousands of service members who have contacted MRFF, ninety-six percent of whom are Christians themselves, have been a number of Christian chaplains. These are the chaplains who understand what Billy Baugham and Arthur Schulcz, who, in Chaplains Under Fire, talk about the infringement on the First Amendment's free speech rights of the chaplains, just don't get. Chaplains are there to serve the troops and ensure their First Amendment rights, not the other way around. Chaplains simply do not have the right to push their beliefs on the troops, nor should a chaplain encourage their congregation to push their beliefs on their fellow troops, as one chaplain is shown doing inChaplains Under Fire. While chaplains certainly do have the same right as a civilian minister to preach the beliefs of their religion in the setting of an actual worship service, statements like the following from a chaplain in a worship service are troublesome.
"How many of you on a day to day basis go up to your neighbors in your workspace and witness to them about Christ? Why not? It's risky, isn't it? Somebody might look at you, and they might label you something, right? Two words. He's a Jesus freak. That's a little bit scary. I'm not saying that God's calling you to go to Baghdad and preach the word there, because, first of all, I don't think you're gonna get clearance to get off the base to do that. But God's got plenty of missions for you every single day right here on base."
On the one hand, evangelizing is part of the Christian faith, so the chaplain has the right to talk about it in a worship service, but on the other hand, the chaplain's military congregation does not have the right do what the chaplain is encouraging them to do -- evangelize in the military workplace.