“The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, an organization of chaplain endorsers representing more than 2,000 chaplains actively serving the armed forces ...” And, thus begins virtually every press release from the Chaplain Alliance, better known as CARL. While documentation for those numbers has never been offered, the commanding figure is more than likely in the ballpark. Speaking with Fox News, retired Army Reserve Chaplain Ron Crews, CARL’s executive director, said, “The vast majority of chaplains come from evangelical backgrounds and part of their mission is sharing their faith.” Few, if any, would question that assertion — the “vast majority” of today’s military chaplains do, indeed, represent a conservative, evangelical and pervasive Christian enterprise.

Ironically, that is the crux of a growing and dangerous trend in today’s military chaplaincy. Pew Forum studies in 2011 put all “evangelicals” in the United States at 28.9 percent of the population, far less than the “vast majority” touted by Crews, assuming of course that diversity of military chaplains should reflect the demographics of the population they serve. Even more confounding is the shrill outcry of conservative Christian endorsers, representing that “vast majority” of today’s chaplains, alleging they are targets of persecution and discrimination.

Recent and highly publicized events, such as the Capitol Hill news conference organized by a coalition of ultraconservative Christians on July 13, have sounded a false alarm about the loss of religious freedom among America’s servicemembers. Seeking yet another act of Congress to guarantee unrestricted speech and behaviors by their chaplains, these denominational endorsers demand the “right of servicemembers to not only hold religious beliefs but to act on them and speak about them,” even when such behaviors are incompatible with military law, good order, discipline and unit cohesion. Specifically, they aim to remove restrictions on proselytization, anti-government rants such as that of Coast Guard Rear Adm. William Lee (who recently boasted about routinely violating military rules regarding separation of church and state), and any limitations on their right to besmirch and exclude gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers.

The proposed legislation is nonsense, and a red herring for the real issue — the desire of a highly funded and powerful lobby to infiltrate and dominate the religious landscape of America’s military. Let’s be clear: Our military chaplains, commanders and servicemembers are free to practice their personal faith openly and in good conscience. However, they may not use uniformed positions or military ranks to promote religious beliefs. There is nothing new about that, as such has long been a hallmark and honored principle of military chaplaincy.

The Pentagon, as reported in Stars and Stripes in May, has been very clear, “What it comes down to, officials said, is that discussing matters of faith and religious practice with a willing audience is allowed, but pushing religious beliefs on those who don’t want to hear it is a form of harassment forbidden under Defense Department policies.” What is so difficult about that to understand?

Chaplain (Col.) Paul W. Dodd (retired)

Co-chairman, Forum on the Military Chaplaincy

Austin, Texas

LQA saga gone on long enough

Regarding the July 25 article “Civilians balk at filing housing waivers”: Most readers other than those who get living quarters allowance realize the real issues here.

Most who are receiving LQA are likely permanent expats who have worked the system to get the $35,000 to $50,000 per year in exorbitant funds. Such a level of payments is not necessary to get good employees. Most officers and senior enlisted members living in government quarters would only dream of such a boost in their salaries — and, for that matter, living in such plush quarters as this LQA allows. The senior commanders are only pandering in their published comments of support for the funds. Yes, the government has erred.

The simple solution is to forgive the back payments and end all future payments at the end of this fiscal year. Those getting LQA should be offered government quarters if available starting in the next fiscal year. If government quarters are not available, payment should be no more than the equivalent government quarters payments.

Col. A. O’Niel Crocker (retired)

Isle of Palms, S.C.

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