On Tuesday there was a US House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee hearing on Religious Accommodations in the Armed Services. It lasted over 1 hour and 20 minutes.
As far as hearings go it was a real doozy with at least one serious confrontation. You can see the whole thing below.
Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation was one of the witnesses and he leads the fight for the separation of church and state in the military. Something that many do not believe in.
This article provides a useful summary;
Pentagon's Religious Guidance Spurred 'Tsunami of Confusion'
Nearly a year ago, Congress inserted language into the defense budget bill intended to quell criticism by some that Christian chaplains were not allowed to practice their faith. But testimony by retired chaplains and others on Capitol Hill on Wednesday showed that the language has not settled the debate.
One of the major reasons for the guidance established a year ago was to ensure chaplains could exercise their faith freely. Conservative religious and social organizations, especially those with strong evangelical beliefs, have for years claimed that the military stifles Christian chaplains from exercising their religious liberties.
One of the major issues discussed had to do with a chaplain's own freedom of religion, for example, if a military chaplain performs a funeral for a service person, should the chaplain adapt the sermon to the religious beliefs or lack thereof of the service person or should the chaplain be able to say the same things as he would say if conducting the service to a group of his or her own faith? Should the chaplain be able to say "Jesus died for our sins" at a Buddhist funeral?
Since chaplains are promoted into service by their own faith, is any restriction in what they say not a limitation on their own freedom of expression?
Mikey Weinstein expressed his controversial opinion;
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group that fights improper and illegal proselytizing in the military, said not all the confusion is innocent.
The 800 pound gorilla
"There is a tsunami of confusion out there, but there's also a lot of willful confusion," he said. "The excuse of I'm sorry, I don't understand, seems very specious ... I think they [commanders] know very well. There is a very purposeful attempt to witness and proselytize irrespective of the Department of Defense directives, instructions and regulations."
What was not talked about or discussed at all in the hearing was the makeup of the Chaplain Corps in the US Armed Forces.
Military chaplains are faith mismatch for personnel they serve
While just 3 percent of the military's enlisted personnel and officers call themselves Southern Baptist, Pentecostal or a member of a denomination that's part of the National Association of Evangelicals, 33 percent of chaplains in the military are members of one of those groups, according to Pentagon statistics.
And the disparity could soon widen.
Data from the Air Force indicate that 87 percent of those seeking to become chaplains are enrolled at evangelical divinity schools.
This last article was written in 2011. I also found this other NYT article about this issue written back in 2005;
Evangelicals Are a Growing Force in the Military Chaplain Corps
Figures provided by the Air Force show that from 1994 to 2005 the number of chaplains from many evangelical and Pentecostal churches rose, some doubling. For example, chaplains from the Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministries International increased to 10 from none. The Church of the Nazarene rose to 12 from 6.
At the same time, the number of chaplains from the Roman Catholic Church declined to 94 from 167, and there were declines in more liberal, mainline Protestant churches: the United Church of Christ to 3 from 11, the United Methodist Church to 50 from 64.
Other branches of the military did not make available similar statistics, but officials say they are seeing the same trend.
And this one from WaPo also in 2005;
Military Wrestles With Disharmony Among Chaplains
Pentagon data analyzed by The Washington Post show a substantial rise in the number of evangelical chaplains in the past decade, along with a modest decline in mainline Protestant ministers and a precipitous drop in Catholic priests, mirroring a nationwide priest shortage.
Of the approximately 1.4 million people on active duty in the military, 21.5 percent list their religion as Roman Catholic. But of the 2,860 active-duty chaplains, 355 -- or 12.4 percent -- are Catholic priests.
By far the largest single provider of chaplains to the military is now the Southern Baptist Convention, with 451 chaplains, one for every 40 service members who list their denomination as Southern Baptist.
Although the military has had growing difficulty recruiting ministers from mainline Protestant seminaries, many evangelical denominations place a high priority on supplying chaplains to the military.
And this more recent one in 2012;
98% Christian military chaplaincy reinforces barriers to diversity
The military chaplaincy has a diversity problem and it just got worse. The chaplaincy is currently 98% Christian, 90% Protestant, and 66% “evangelistic” Christian (the denominations that may engage in a more political expression of their religion). The same denominations in the general military population are 70%, 50%, and 19% respectively. This mismatch in the diversity in the chaplaincy is a problem on its face that the military should address with aggressive training and recruitment initiatives.
66% evangelical chaplains vs 19% evangelical service persons?
No wonder we have a problem of religious "accommodation" in the military. Specially because it is the practice of evangelicals to proselytize since their beliefs requires them to. The predominance of evangelicals in the Chaplain Corps is one of the reasons for the tsunami.