The acts of an Air Force chaplain came under scrutiny when the Military Religious Freedom Foundation called for an investigation.
As many New Jersey residents know, the United States recognizes some level of separation of church and state. Yet, the importance of the role of chaplains in the U.S. military has long been and continues to be important.
A tagline of the Air Force Chaplain Corps is “Glorifying God, Serving Airmen, Pursuing Excellence.” The organization is designed to provide spiritual, ethical and moral guidance to military troops and their families. Chaplains and chaplain assistants work on domestic and foreign soil in many capacities.
One chaplain this summer gave a blessing at an event honoring a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. While this may seem well within the bounds of a chaplain's duty, this particular blessing at this particular event led to a call for an investigation and allegations of wrongdoing.
MRFF president demands investigation
According to the Air Force Times, the president of an organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation alleged that the chaplain's benediction crossed over the line of his duties. Two particular facts were called out in this allegation. One of those facts was that the chaplain was in his full military uniform at the time. The other was the fact that the event was sponsored by a Christian organization.
The chaplain's actions took place at an event hosted by the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberties and were part of honoring the U.S. representative with a special award.
Air Force Inspector General disagrees with MRFF president
Reports from Military.com indicate that in reviewing the request for a full investigation the Air Force Inspector General has concluded that there is no basis for such an investigation. The Inspector General has instead issued a statement indicating that the chaplain's words and actions were within the appropriate boundaries for his position. The generic nature of the statement was in no way a support of a particular denomination or set of beliefs. It also did not represent any condemnation of a particular denomination or set of beliefs.
It is unknown at this time if the MRFF president or others intend to continue to pursue an official investigation or if the matter will be put to rest.
Help can be important when lines are blurred
Many things like the separation of church and state are not always black and white. New Jersey residents who face these difficult situations in the military should consult with an attorney who understands military tradition and law. This is an important step in making sure one's rights and military career can be adequately protected.