Crosses Removed from Army Chapel

According to FoxNews, the Army has decided to remove three crosses and a memorial plaque that honored a Chaplain who died while serving on Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.  This was reportedly to comply with Army regulations that require chapels to have neutral appearances and not be named.  From 13-3:

The chapel environment will be religiously neutral when the facility is not being used for scheduled worship.  Chapels must be available to people of all faith groups for meditation and prayer when formal religious services are not scheduled.

[Religious] symbols are to be moved or covered when not in use. Distinctive religious symbols, such as crosses, crucifixes, the Star of David, menorah, and other religious symbols, will not be affixed or displayed permanently on the chapel exterior or grounds. Permanent or fixed chapel furnishings, such as the altar, pulpit, lectern, communion rail, prie-dieu, or reredos, will be devoid of distinctive religious symbols.

While some blogs have criticized the Army for the move, neutral symbology is fairly standard in most multi-use chapels in all the military services.  The buildings are often non-descript, they are generally called “the Base/Post Chapel” (unless there is more than one, where it may be “Chapel One/Two”), and the interior is “transformable.”  In some cases, a curtain can be moved to show or hide a crucifix, cross, or Jewish or Islamic symbology.  As the military Chaplaincy does an admirable job of serving the many faiths in the military, the vast majority of chapels are multi-faith facilities.  The ability to “redecorate” for each one is often a necessity.

There are some exceptions, generally in cases where faith groups have dedicated chapels.  For example, the US Air Force Academy chapel (one of the most famous structures in Colorado) has a 50 foot tall aluminum cross hanging in the Protestant chapel (on the upper floor) (Wikipedia image).  However, there are also separate Catholic, Jewish, and other faith dedicated facililities with their symbology present.

If the memorial plaque was truly only that (and didn’t “rename” the chapel), it is possible that the “letter of the law” may have been taken a bit far.  Still, the drama in the media belies the fact that the event is, in fact, a non-event.

Also noted on the Religion Clause.