News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, MAY 15, 2006


U.S. House tries to undercut rules about chaplain prayer

The U.S. House is defending the right of military chaplains to pray at public ceremonies in the name of Jesus, who advised his followers to pray in secret.

In passing a defense funding bill Thursday, the House added language that gives each chaplain "the prerogative to pray according to the dictates of the chaplain's own conscience, except as must be limited by military necessity." We suppose this gives Muslim chaplains, among others, the same right as Christian ones, but it undercuts sensible rules that the Air Force and Navy issued recently.

Those rules allow chaplains to pray as they wish in voluntary worship services, according to The Washington Post. But nonsectarian prayers or moments of silence are required at public events, especially when service members of all faiths must attend. The rules show respect for different faiths and keep the chaplains in a better position to help everybody.

Some evangelical Christian groups oppose the rules. But the chief of Navy chaplains, Rear Adm. Louis V. Iasiello, said the congressional language "will, in the end, marginalize chaplains and degrade their use and effectiveness." Adm. Iasiello is a Roman Catholic priest.

How would Jesus vote on this issue? Perhaps his words in Matthew 6:6 give a clue: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

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