Chaplain Ministers to All, Even Other Nations

US Army Chaplain (Maj) Julian Padgett served the men and women of Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq, in late 2009.  In his proactive efforts to minister to those on Marez, he reportedly “made the rounds along the base perimeter to comfort troops and offer prayers,” as shown in this picture dated in September 2009:

(DoD Photo, PO1 Carmichael Yepez)

(DoD Photo, PO1 Carmichael Yepez)

An important detail is that Chaplain Padgett ministered to all the men and women on Marez supporting the US mission, including the pictured security guard, a third country national (TCN) from Uganda with whom he shared a Bible verse.

In some cases, the US military contracts out certain support jobs even in combat locations.  Cooking, cleaning, and apparently some security roles are contracted to companies who hire people not from the host country, nor from America, but from a “third” country like India, Bangladesh, Uganda, or elsewhere.  While these “third country nationals” (TCNs) are often restricted from many locations on American bases, there is evidence that they not only interact with servicemembers at their leisure, but also that they can attend chapel services.

Chaplains are ministers of the spirit both to those in the US military and to those who support the mission of the US military.

US military Chaplains serving the spiritual needs of those around them, without regard to faith or even nationality, is an admirable demonstration of the US military’s–and America’s–support for religious freedom.

Amazingly, a “religious freedom” organization not only objects to similar Chaplains’ actions in support of all peoples’ religious freedom, but they also make the sensational claim that such actions demonstrate to “Muslims [that] we’re on a crusade.”  When a US military Chaplain in Iraq obtained Swahili-language Bibles for Ugandan TCNs who requested them, Michael Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation incorrectly said this was a “blatant violation of military regulations.”  No US military regulation restricts the religious freedoms of either US military members or supporting third country nationals in that way.

The MRFF’s researcher appeared to focus on the shipment of non-English language Bibles into Iraq, and they apparently assumed they were being used to “proselytize” in violation of General Order Number One.  Even after they learned that the Bibles had been requested by those people (nullifying the MRFF accusation), the MRFF refused to admit their error and, in fact, repeated it several months later.  Instead of acknowledging the Chaplain’s work in protecting religious freedom, Weinstein’s “religious freedom” organization instead misrepresented their actions and attempted to demean the reputation of the US military in the eyes of the world. 

Despite some very public but ignorant accusations, the US military isn’t on a “crusade” to push any individual religion.  The US military acts on behalf of the nation it represents, and religious freedom is a sacred tenet of the United States of America.

Those who serve in the military can rest assured that the US military will endeavor to accommodate their religious needs.  The world–including those of the Islamic faith–can see by its actions that the US military–and America–is a staunch defender of the human liberty of religious freedom.

Now if the US could just educate some very loud Americans about that…