According to the University of the West, a Buddhist-founded university near Los Angeles, US Army First Lieutenant Somya Malasri will soon be the Army’s second Buddhist Chaplain (behind Chaplain (Lt) Thomas Dyer).
The Navy also has a Buddhist Chaplain; Chaplain Shin is currently deployed to Afghanistan and has been hosting Buddhist services there.
Shin also reported, courtesy of Chaplain Dyer, the Chaplain candidacy of the next Buddhist Chaplain for the US Army, 2LT Christopher Mohr.
Statements released by Osama bin Laden have validated the fears of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Michael Weinstein, whose organization has repeatedly claimed that associations of Christianity with the US military provide “propaganda” and “recruiting tools” to America’s adversaries, endangering US troops and the mission of the nation. Read more
Michael Weinstein is truly the gift that keeps on giving. His latest attempt at infamy is to say that a red cross appearing on a military hospital’s emblem
violate[s] the constitutional requirement for separation of church and state and should be removed.
Apparently Weinstein has missed the long, international history of the cross in military medical use, as well as the US military’s equivalent treatment of Islam and Judaism that would allegedly “violate…separation of church and state,” pictured below.
Weinstein also objects to the emblem’s motto “pro deo et humanitate” or “for God and humanity,” despite the military’s description of the phrase as pre-dating Christianity.
The emblem in question is that of Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs.
The US Navy’s only Buddhist Chaplain is currently deployed to Afghanistan. She recently posted a short blog celebrating Buddha’s birth and noting the attendance of local Marines at the service.
As noted here often, the US military protects religious freedom of its servicemembers, even when that religious freedom may be contrary or offensive to locals or America’s adversaries. While some often connect such offense with Christianity, it was just a few years ago that the Taliban ordered the destruction of “false idol” statues of Buddha in Afghanistan–which had stood for 1,500 years.
Many military members who deploy have “kits” of items that they take with them, some for personal reasons, other for professional. Some military branches and specialties also issue kits with required items for the servicemembers in those fields.
Chaplains are no exception. Over at the Army Chaplaincy Blog, Chaplain Daniel Sparks has a picture and list of the things he packs in his “Chaplain’s Kit” when he deploys. While size and weight are certainly important, Sparks also mentions another important factor: Read more
It is not uncommon for people of a religious faith–Christian or not–to occasionally speak of the difficulty of celebrating their faith while in the military. This is particularly true in intense training environments, as well as the obvious restricted areas of combat. The military culture is sometimes hostile (even unintentionally) to the spirit of a religious faith, and the logistical environment sometimes restricts the ability to fully exercise one’s faith.
Despite the challenges encountered, it is important to highlight the fact that the US military has a responsive environment of both commanders and Chaplains to see to the religious needs of all of its servicemembers. Though there are obvious logistical hurdles in some cases, there is no institutional support for or bias against any particular faith. In fact, the opposite is true.
For example, the Aleph Institute, a DoD Chaplain endorsing organization and valuable support agency for Jews in the US military, recently said they had to come to the rescue of a Soldier seeking spiritual resources, and because of “red tape” a Jewish Soldier has “almost no chance” of getting spiritual resources like prayer books and kosher field rations.
History, however, demonstrates the opposite. In fact, Jewish military Read more
US Army Chaplain (Capt) Matt Foley has an odd claim to fame. Yes, he is that “Matt Foley:” the Saturday Night Live motivational speaker played by Chris Farley. He and Farley played rugby together in college, and Farley would ultimately promise to use Foley’s name when he acted out the character.
A local news article relates Foley’s motivation and history in becoming a Catholic priest and military Chaplain. As has been noted before, there is a shortage of Catholic Chaplains in the US military, a problem that has Foley “FOB-hopping” around Afghanistan serving the needs of Catholic (and other) soldiers.
Foley’s reputation at Bagram is Read more
A legitimate question that all new members of the military (or those aspiring to be) have is to what degree they will be able to exercise their religious faith while in the service. Regardless of the service, the role of the US military corps of Chaplains is to ensure the troops’ access to free exercise of their religion, as well as act as a focal point for the protection of religious freedom within the military. Such freedoms are restricted only as necessary by the needs of the military mission.
While an occasional complaint makes the news implying that the military supports only a single religion, a veritable plethora of counterexamples undermine that claim. Recently, the Pulaski County Daily Read more