US Army Releases New Regulation on Religious Support

The US Army recently released Field Manual 1-05 (FM 1-05), Religious Support, the

Army’s keystone manual for detailing fundamental principles of comprehensive religious support.

Much of the 40-page manual is little more than logistics and structural guidance on how chaplains and religious support are to be integrated into Army operations.  That the Army felt the need to publish such a document, however, is one indicator of the high value it places on such religious support.

The manual begins with an introduction on the history and importance of chaplains:

Chaplains have served in the U.S. Army since the first days of the American Revolution and many have died in combat. These chaplains represented more than 120 separate denominations and faith groups from across America. Six chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty…

That hardly sounds like the Army has forbidden chaplains from serving in combat, as one military atheist likes to claim.  The manual also notes the Constitutional need for chaplains in the US military:

The personal needs of Soldiers, the mission at hand, their own faith, and emerging religious support doctrine have guided these chaplains and their assistants as they met the goal to uphold the free exercise of religion ensured by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

In an interesting inclusion, the manual specifically notes chaplains have an internal role — serving the religious needs of troops — but they can also have an external role — which might include, for example, engaging indigenous populations on a religious level to assist in accomplishing the mission.

Most importantly, the manual emphasizes the role of the chaplaincy as an advisor to the commander.  As noted in some debates over the roles of chaplains in the US Air Force, military commanders — not chaplains — are responsible for the spiritual welfare of their troops, something this regulation makes explicitly clear [emphasis added]:

The Army Chaplaincy is established to advise and assist commanders in the discharge of their responsibilities to provide for the free exercise of religion in the context of military service as guaranteed by the Constitution, to assist commanders in managing Religious Affairs and to serve as the principal advisors to commanders for all issues regarding the impact of religion on military operations.

As if to punctuate that point, FM 1-05 notes religious accommodation is discussed in another regulation (AR 600-20) entitled Command Policy — because accommodation is a function of command, not the chaplaincy.

Commanders provide for the free exercise of religion for Soldiers, Families, and authorized civilians…Commanders enable religious support functions as prescribed in Army regulations. The Army accommodates religious practices when such accommodations do not impede military readiness or hinder unit cohesion, standards, health, safety or discipline. Accommodating religious practices is weighed against military necessity and not guaranteed at all times.

While much of the Field Manual is a dry read on administration, there are a few interesting bits on duties and responsibilities.  Ultimately, the US Army officially recognizes the need (both Constitutionally-mandated and necessary to readiness) to support the spiritual requirements of its troops.

And it does so without controversy.

As noted at the Federation of American Scientists (


  • Your headline is incorrect. It is not a regulation. The governing regulation is AR 165-1. A Field Manual is not a regulation, but describes current doctrine.

  • @BC
    The term is used generically, as it is commonly understood, without deference to the US Army definition. Similarly, “Air Force regulations” are routinely cited, while the Air Force technically has no regulations. They’re “Air Force Instructions.”

  • Have not read the FM yet but I had one concern after reading your post. If the unit Chaplains serve as advisers to Command and ALL unit chaplains are Protestant (Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) how can they possibly give proper guidance to a commander in relation to a faith outside their own. I’m not suggesting they can’t as many of them probably have a better understanding of other world faith outside their own than most commanders do but I think their adherence to the Christian faith brings into question whether or not they can truly be impartial. If a unit is made up primarily of Christian soldiers, be it protestant or catholic, it’s less likely that a commander is going to indulge requests for accommodations from say a Muslim soldier. If that soldier is the only Muslim soldier in his unit and sees people of another faith being recognized in whatever manner, he can feel ostracized and this can lead to resentment and perhaps a lack of cohesion in the military.

  • @Priscilla Parker
    Your comment makes far too many assumptions. Upon what evidence do you base your statements?

    Thousands of chaplains provide appropriate and essential guidance to military commanders everyday, regardless of their religious beliefs. As the article above references, those commanders make decisions every day about the support for and accommodation of their troops’ religious beliefs.

    Like every other member of the military, they have the professionalism and integrity to do their job, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or other personal demographic to which they may belong. It is poor form to insinuate otherwise merely because they are different from you.

  • @JD

    I’m not so sure chaplains provide “appropriate and essential guidance to military commanders every day regardless of their religious beliefs.”

    Evangelical Protestant chaplains are charged by their beliefs to “Go forth and MAKE deciples.” Such was the case at the USAFA not too long ago when, at a new class briefing held at the Academy Chapel, the head Chaplain told the assemblage that it was the duty of all Christian Cadets to proselytize the “unchurched.”

    In other indicents, which are well known to this board, strident Evangelical efforts by the chaplaincy and chain of command to gain converts and elevate existing Christians cadets to a new level of obedience have been an AFA mainstay. “Making deciples” does not suggest even handed religious treatment.

  • @Richard
    You’re mixing up and combining your stories again; no incident happened as you describe, though two or three separate ones had some of the elements. Besides, the “assemblage” to which you refer was a church service. Surely you don’t think it would be Constitutional for the military to restrict the content of religious services, do you?

    You vaguely refer to “other incidents,” but you are again not being forthright. You actually mean other accusations. None of those accusations has been substantiated as accurately identifying impermissible conduct.

    “Making deciples” does not suggest…

    Surah 9:5 of the Koran doesn’t “suggest even-handed treatment.” Whole chapters of the Torah do not “suggest even-handed treatment.” Your decision to tell Christians (and no one else) what they believe doesn’t “suggest even-handed treatment.” Your insinuations are asinine.

  • @JD
    OMG! How can I be called “asinine” for just an opinion?

    In that regard I am relating to Christians and others the logical fallacies of elevating their beliefs above those of others and the absolutism that is the result. It is in those cases where people of one religious faith essay to validate their own beliefs by denigrating those of others that the precepts of religious freedom are violated.

    And it is a Tu Quoque defense to intimate that one may not criticize the dark tenets of one religion because other religions may have similar ones.

    If Christianity wishes to survive it must recognize that in a modern world society it must find its place and demonstrate the validity of it’s tenets without rancor, criticism or hostility towards other faiths. This will be difficult not only for Christianity but other faiths which demand recognition of their claim to have the one true God and only true faith.

  • @Richard

    the logical fallacies of elevating their beliefs…

    You may not agree with them, but those are not “logical fallacies.”

    validate their own beliefs by denigrating…others…[violates] religious freedom…

    That statement is wrong on many levels. If you’re going to stand by it, though, you need to go after those atheists who insist their religious freedom requires them to denigrate other religions.

    it is a Tu Quoque defense to intimate that one may not criticize…

    Your definition of tu quoque is essentially correct, but your application of it is not.

    If Christianity wishes to survive…

    It is highly unlikely any religion needs your advice on how to “survive.” Then again, both you and the organization you work for advocate government restrictions that could theoretically imperil the survival of religious liberty, so your advice may be appropriate — if Richard’s ideal world ever comes to fruition.

    Fortunately, there’s that pesky thing called the US Constitution standing in your way — as well as a military sworn to protect it.

  • @JD
    Thank you for the grammar, vocabulary and English comprehension lesson.

    I’m not so sure that Atheists denigrate religion without first having themselves been attacked by religious bodies. Terms such as “Godless Liberal Atheists” and others appear routinely in discussions and printed word against Atheism by the religious.

    Religion is very much like an old boys club; exclusive, conceited and cocky.

    As for advice on how to survive, I know religion has made it through some tough times but not without significant loss of life and treasure. However, in retrospect it seems religion has also acquired much in terms of followers and treasure.

    I don’t find the US Constitution “pesky.” In fact I honor my oath to support and uphold the constitution far more conscientiously than many others including yourself. I don’t mean that it is your intent to violate it but simply that you have a wrong take on the First Amendment and you misinterpret it giving religion much more power, scope and protection than it actually was allotted. I make it a point to remain current with the many SCOTUS rulings and decisions RE: Religion and its constituional responsibilities. Religious Freedom does not mean religious dominance and religion is required by constitutional provision to remain within the parameters established for it. Plus there are many things that religion is NOT free to do.There are many rules religion and its adherents must follow, including the ones which have been most addressed by me and MRFF, those which affect government relations with religion, including the Armed Forces and Public Education.

    Religion deserves consideration and accommodation but not special privilege. Too many practitioners assign far too much importance to their beliefs and assume wrongly that they are universal. In addition religion denies the United States billions in tax dollars which could go a long way toward reducing our debt. Instead religion uses that tax savings to benefit themselves in the form of massive catherdrals, ornate decor, mansions, expensive cars, etc. As an example, if the art and treasures of the Vatican were even partially liquidated the proceeds could feed the world’s hungry for decades.

    It’s time for religion and those who benefit so greatly from it, to maintain strict adherence to their constitutional responsibilites and stop trying to gain unfair position and advantage. It is also time for those who would dishonor the constitution by ignoring its provisions to remember the importance of the separation of church and state.

  • @Richard

    you misinterpret [the First Amendment] giving religion much more power, scope and protection than it actually was allotted…

    To mangle a phrase, your comment is riddled with mixed metaphors. Much like your comment above, you are combining and misusing terms to the point of incoherence.

    For example, the US Constitution neither grants nor denies power, etc, to “religion.” With regard to human liberties, its purpose was to restrict the US government’s ability to infringe on the liberties of its citizens. Until you get that basic concept of American governance down, the rest of your verbose pontifications are wasted words.

  • The power I speak of is in the immunity religion has been granted under the first amendment clause prohibiting the impeding of the free exercise of religion. Your interpretation of this clause grants Christianity a favored position and elevates it beyond other beliefs.

    Free exercise of religion is not a free pass for powerful and well populated religions to dominate as you would have Christianity dominate. Religion has frequently infringed on other constitutional guarantees.

    Religion’s privilege is well known and its misdeeds obvious. Secular law is slow to investigate and charge religious bodies and individuals. I give you the heinous history of child molestation in the church and the failure on the part of the church to report its own.

    Only a well protected organization could have survived such a scandalous exposure as the church continues to flourish.

  • Richard — while your comments make for interesting debate, the scandalous exposure is “the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history,” says the National Catholic Reporter. Not so flourishing–since the 1960s, four American-born Catholics have left the church for every one who has converted, according to a 2009 Pew study. See this article; there are others online as well:

    Off point, I have noticed lately there are more self-identifying “Christians,” non-religious affiliated, then actual Catholic/Protestant/Jewish card-carring members. These Christians I speak of (and know personally) do not believe they are anymore protected/privileged than anyone else. Keep in mind I don’t live in a big city, but there is a large Military installation and thousands of retirees in my neck of the woods, but your area may be the exception in this case.

    Again, you have provided some interesting and compelling comments, but so has JD….and I’m not taking sides, just my observation. ;o)

  • @Richard

    Your interpretation…you would have…

    You appear to be debating a figment of your imagination.

  • @JD

    Religion, Christianity in specific. has permeated Colorado Springs, which is a Mecca for Christian organizations, churches and Missions. There is a distinct air of superiority which often translates as righteousness.

    Colorado Springs is the headquarters of Focus on the Family, Family Research Institute and a number of pseudo-educational outfits which put out a steady stream of Christian propaganda .

    This year Focus will again run its “Merry Christmas….or else, program in which it publicly identifies and denigrates any retailer, movie house, restaurant, etc., which does not use “Merry Christmas” …

    Deleted by Admin.

  • @Richard
    Your talking points are not only off topic, they’re wrong. If you’re going to rail against people, at least get the right people.

    This is not your personal rant space. Wholly irrelevant (and factually incorrect) posts like that will be deleted.

  • @JD

    My posts have direct application to the topic. The antics by Christian organizations in Colorado Springs are by large measure aimed at our Military installations, the US Air Force Academy being a prime example. Focus on the the Family and New Life Church have had their tendrils intertwined with purveyors of militant Christianity there and other armed forces venues. One only has to read the paper to see the frequent violations of consitutional provision by operatives of the Dominion Christian sect. The Air Force Academy has 372 complainants who have filed their grievances concerning command centered and coercive Christian proselytizing with MRFF, a number more at other installations including Fort Carson.

    I believe that there is a direct effect on the military chaplaincies by these organizations whose backing has apparently emppowered several of the military chaplains to break with SOP and begin one-sided proselytizing.