Conservative Chaplains Lose Lawsuit But Lead US Military Chaplaincy

Howard Friedman’s Religion Clause reported on the summary judgment granted in In re Navy Chaplaincy, a very long-running lawsuit alleging the US Navy chaplaincy was essentially rigged for liturgical/Catholic chaplains. The DC federal district court ruled against the chaplains.

However, given how many years the lawsuit has been running its course, it is worth noting who is leading the US Navy chaplaincy now:

In fact, the rest of the US military chaplaincy leadership reads much the same. With one possible exception, the list reads like a who’s who of conservative and evangelical Christian voices (much to the chagrin of Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, no doubt).

The exception is the new Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (MajGen) Steven Schaick, who just replaced the newly retired Chaplain (MajGen) Dondi Costin (now the President of Charleston Southern University).

While Chaplain Costin was a Southern Baptist, Chaplain Schaick is endorsed by the PCUSA.  The thought of a liberal-leaning denomination endorsing the highest ranking Air Force chaplain would presumably make some critics of conservative Christianity giddy — except that, notably, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein has already called for one IG investigation into Chaplain Schaick.  Chaplain Schaick attended the “blatantly anti-LGBT” chaplains event with Chaplain Costin two years ago.

The other military chaplaincy leadership includes:

  • Chief of Chaplains (Army): Chaplain (MajGen) Paul Hurley, Catholic
  • Deputy Chief of Chaplains (Air Force): Chaplain (BGen) Ronald Harvell, Southern Baptist
  • Deputy Chief of Chaplains (Army): Chaplain (BGen) Thomas Solhjem, Assembly of God

It’s an interesting cross-section of chaplains, and the military chaplaincy (across the board) has had some interesting challenges these past few years.  For his part, Chaplain Costin was a vocal defender of religious liberty.  It will be interesting to see how this cohort of chaplains moves forward.