(Senate - September 19, 2006)

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[Congressional Record Volume 152, Number 117 (Tuesday, September 19, 2006)]
[Pages S9714-S9717]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                       PRAYER IN THE ARMED FORCES

  Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, at the present time, the members of the 
Armed Services Committee of the Senate and the members of the Armed 
Services Committee of the House are in a conference. A great deal of 
confidentiality is attached to that procedure. I do not in any way 
intend to violate that confidentiality.
  But before the conference--and this is not a matter of 
confidentiality--is a provision in the bill of the House of 
Representatives which is related to military chaplains. I will read 
from the House bill.

       Each Chaplain shall have the prerogative to pray according 
     to the dictates of the Chaplain's own conscience, except as 
     must be limited by military necessity, with any such 
     limitation being imposed in the least restrictive manner 

  That is the end of the proposed bill language. That is what I would 
like to address at this time.
  I first want to say that the Senate has no such provision, and 
therefore we have to resolve the difference between the two bodies. The 
House of Representatives put this provision in during markup, which is 
the time they go over their bill. Another amendment was offered in that 
markup and rejected. It is referred to as follows: ``Amendment to H.R. 
5122, offered by Mr. Israel,'' Member of Congress, and it provides in 
section 590, which I just read, relating to military chaplains: at the 
end of the quoted matter inserted by each of the subsections (a), (b), 
(c), (d), and (e), insert the following: ``, except that chaplains 
shall demonstrate sensitivity, respect, and tolerance for all faiths 
present on each occasion at which prayers are offered''.
  I personally have not decided on what version I personally feel 

[[Page S9715]]

address this problem, so I remain of an open mind. But I remain very 
firmly of a mind that in the brief time that we have had an opportunity 
to look at it and examine it here on the Senate side, the time is 
inadequate to address an issue which I regard as of enormous 
importance. This is an issue that I would hope this Chamber would have 
the opportunity to discuss, whether to put into law a provision as 
proposed by the House or a provision as proposed by Mr. Israel, a 
Member of Congress, which addresses the perspectives of this issue from 
a different angle. This is just an example of the diversity of views on 
this important issue.
  Among the conferees--I cannot name names; I will not--there is a 
strong division, those in favor of certain language other than what is 
in the House bill. Some conferees think that the provision by Mr. 
Israel should be included. So there is at this time just an enormous 
uncertainty among the conferees.
  The House book that contains what we call report language, which is a 
very helpful instrument to try to explain the background of how 
provisions come into our legislation, trying to explain what some of 
the words mean, this book is silent. The only report language is a 
recitation, exactly, of the proposed bill language. So there is no 
guidance that Congress is providing on this important phrase.
  I hasten to point out that, as is the case in just about all matters 
that we take up in the Armed Services Committee regarding the annual 
authorization bill, the Secretary of Defense transmits to us opinions 
that he has, on behalf of the Department, with regard to proposed 
legislation. I now will have printed in the Record what is entitled:

       The Department of Defense Appeal, FY 2007 Defense 
     Authorization Bill; Subject: Military Chaplains; Language/
     Provision: House section 590 established chaplains at each of 
     the Military Services would have the prerogative to pray 
     according to the dictates of their own conscience, except as 
     must be limited by military necessity. The Senate included no 
     similar provision.

  The Department of Defense position is they oppose this provision. 
This reads as follows:

       This provision could marginalize chaplains who, in 
     exercising their conscience, generate discomfort at mandatory 
     formations. Such erosion of unit cohesion is avoided by the 
     Military's present insistence on inclusive prayer at 
     interfaith gatherings--something the House legislation would 
     operate against.
       The Department urges exclusion of this provision.

  We have not decided as yet. But that is another dimension to the 
diversity of thinking on this very important provision.
  As all Members in this body fully appreciate and understand, when a 
matter of this controversy comes along you are often singled out by a 
variety of people who disagree. I have not taken a position, but 
nevertheless I am being besieged by telephone, by bloggers, by 
everything else--that I have taken this or that position. I will state 
momentarily what I think should be done. But I am very proud of my 
  I was blessed with two magnificent parents. We were active in the 
Episcopal Church, and I have remained active in that faith nearly all 
of my life, nearly 80 years now. My uncle was a rector of a very 
prominent parish here in Washington, DC, in the shadow of the 
Washington Cathedral where I was raised, not more than three blocks 
from his church, and I was a regular attendee of Sunday school through 
that. I am just sorrowful that people attack me personally, as if I had 
no religious foundation. I have that foundation.
  I have had the privilege to serve in uniform. Not a career--and I 
have said it many times here on the floor of the Senate--of any great 
note, a very modest career, but as a young, 17, 18-year-old in the last 
year of World War II, just in the training command. We were trained to 
be replacements to go overseas to the Pacific. The war ended. We were 
sent home.
  But many a time in the course of that period in military service, the 
second chapter, this time as a United States Marine, a young officer 
serving in Korea, the First Marine Air Wing, at a time when, indeed, 
certainly the infantry troops in the front lines, where I visited on 
occasion, were being subject to the most difficult combat under 
rigorous conditions in Korea, but I knelt and prayed many, many times 
with my fellow soldiers--men and women, fellow marines, fellow sailors.
  So I speak as one who has benefited through the years from the 
religion that was instilled in me through my parents and the church of 
my choice, and it has given me a great strength to face up to the 
trials and tribulations that all of us experience in a lifetime.
  I respect the chaplains. I went to chaplains on occasion, and I am 
grateful for the counseling that they gave me. So I say, I look back 
with a sense of humility on what the military has taught me. Many times 
have I said I don't think I would ever have achieved the opportunity to 
be a U.S. Senator had I not had the opportunity, the privilege of 
serving in uniform during the periods of two conflicts of our Nation 
and the learning that I received throughout the military. I have often 
said the military did more for me than I ever did for the military. But 
I just will stand my ground against anyone who wishes to challenge my 
  Now, in my 28th year in this magnificent Chamber, many is the time I 
stood here as our Senate opens and listened to either our chaplain or a 
visiting clergy. Each of us have the privilege of inviting from our 
several States a visiting clergy to come and deliver a prayer. It is 
part of the life of the U.S. Senate. I know of no effort ever to try 
and censor or legislate the prayers given here in the Senate, either by 
our chaplain or by the many who come from all over America to give 
their prayers here. So I am not suggesting the military is like the 
Senate. But it is an example of the use of prayer.
  The military is different. It is for that reason, that it is 
different, that I think it is important that we proceed to resolve such 
problems as may exist today in the military regarding how our chaplains 
pray, that we resolve that only after the institutions of the Senate 
and the House of Representatives go through a careful and deliberative 
process, not just try in the heat of resolving a conference report, in 
brief meetings here and there among just a very few--well, sometimes 
all the conferees, sometimes in small groups--trying to reconcile the 
differences between legislative provisions in the House bill and those 
in the Senate bill.
  I would like to call our attention to the Constitution of the United 
States. It says:

       Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of 
     religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or 
     abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the 
     right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition 
     the government for a redress of grievances.

  This is such a fundamental part of our democracy. It is a pillar of 
strength in this Republic. But it is constantly reviewed by the courts 
against the different factual situations that come up.
  I think the military deserves no less than to have the most careful 
and deliberative review of this suggested language rather than to put 
it into law at this time. My recommendation--I will cooperate with the 
conferees--is that I am not prepared to take any position on how this 
language should be put into law or not put into law at this time. But I 
do say that I will strongly recommend to the Committee on Armed 
Services that the seriousness of this issue literally demands that as 
soon as the new Congress convenes in January, the committees of the 
Armed Services of the Senate and the House put on hearings at the 
earliest possibility. You could start with this language as recommended 
by the House of Representatives--the Senate has no language--to go 
through a process where people can come in.
  For example, I asked each of the chiefs of the chaplains of the Army, 
Navy, and the Air Force to come in and speak to the conferees--there 
were only four conferees there at that time--which they did. I attached 
the utmost confidentiality as to what they said. But I was left with 
the impression that now is not the time to try to quickly put this one 
sentence into law by virtue of incorporating it into the final draft of 
the conference report. Those chaplains would be quite willing to come 
before the Congress in open session. Let the whole of the United States 
see this debate unfold, as it should.
  Prayer is very important to the men and women of the Armed Forces. I 
remember so well the old maxim, ``There

[[Page S9716]]

is no atheist in the foxholes of war.'' Military people, military 
families are heavily dependent upon the comfort that is given by 
prayer--prayer alone or prayer with others.
  I urge this Congress not to do at this time this one sentence. I will 
read it again. I have difficulty, as many times as I have read it, 
understanding exactly what it means.
  It says: Each chaplain shall have the prerogative to pray according 
to the dictates of the chaplain's own conscience except as must be 
limited by military necessity.
  What is that? What is military necessity? We should define that very 
carefully. I continue:

       With any such limitation being imposed in the least 
     restrictive manner feasible.

  That, to me, is a complicated sentence and a complicated message to 
put forth.
  In conclusion, I will recommend to the conferees that at this time 
Congress not enact this bill language in the House, that we defer it to 
a time when the entire Senate and the entire House in open before the 
public invites in as many as we can possibly accommodate to give their 
views on the institution of the chaplain in the Armed Forces of the 
United States, an institution that I have known since the closing days 
of World War II and have known for over a half century and have seen it 
function and have seen it work. Before we change those rules, I think 
we owe no less to the men and women in the Armed Forces to have these 
deliberative bodies of the House and Senate have their hearings, debate 
the language, and then decide whether they wish or not to write 
language that in many respects we were admonished by the Founding 
Fathers to be careful, at least at the most under the First Amendment.
  In addition, some of the concern--and I think it is a legitimate 
concern--of those proposing this language emanates from actions taken 
by the Department of the Air Force, the Department of the Navy, and I 
believe--I have not seen it--the Department of the Army in issuing 
certain guidance. The guidance was issued recently about this subject 
of prayer and other matters relating to the chaplain.
  I will not go into it, but I will put in today's Record the documents 
that were issued by several military departments. You can read it for 
  I think that we should put in report language in our bill two things: 
First, that the Secretary of Defense will stay--that means hold in 
abeyance--enforcement of these newly promulgated regulations until such 
time as the Congress has had an opportunity to hold its hearings, go 
through a deliberative process, and then decide whether it wishes to 
act by way of sending a conference report to the President for purposes 
of becoming the law of the land.
  So it is twofold: let the system of the chaplain, which has been 
operating for my lifetime, half a century, serving the needs of the men 
and women of the Armed Forces, continue to do as they have done but 
stand down any regulations until studied by this coequal branch of the 
Government, which under the Constitution has a very special language 
provision that says we have a responsibility to care for the needs in 
general of the men and women of the Armed Forces. That is what the 
conference report does.
  I am hopeful that the conferees will see the wisdom of this action, 
let this bill go forward to the President's desk so it can become law, 
and it can care for the men and women of the Armed Forces.
  That will be written in report language. It does not have the force 
of law. But I am basically assured by the Department of Defense that 
they will comply; stay for the time being the most recent regulations, 
whatever they wish to call them, that have been sent out to their 
respective commands until Congress has had a reasonable time within 
which to decide whether they feel it is necessary to prepare for the 
President's signature a new law.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that additional materials 
regarding this subject be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                         Department of the Navy

                       SECNAV Instruction 1730.7C

     d. Chaplains
       (1) Chaplains are Qualified Religious Ministry 
     Professionals (RMPs) endorsed by a Department of Defense 
     (DOD)--listed Religious Organization (RO) and commissioned as 
     CHC officers.
       (2) As a condition of appointment, every RMP must be 
     willing to function in a pluralistic environment in the 
     military, where diverse religious traditions exist side-by-
     side with tolerance and respect. Every RMP must be willing to 
     support directly and indirectly the free exercise of religion 
     by all military members of the DON, their family members, and 
     other persons authorized to be served, in cooperation with 
     other chaplains and RMPs. Chaplains are trained to minister 
     within the specialized demands of the military environment 
     without compromising the tenets of their own religious 
       (3) In providing religious ministry, chaplains shall strive 
     to avoid the establishment of religion to ensure that free 
     exercise rights are protected for all authorized personnel.
       (4) Chaplains will provide ministry to those of their own 
     faith, facilitate ministry to those of other faiths, and care 
     for all service members, including those who claim no 
     religious faith. Chaplains shall respect the rights of others 
     to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold 
     no beliefs.
       (5) Chaplains advise commands in matters of morale, morals, 
     ethics, and spiritual well-being. They also serve as the 
     principal advisors to commanders for all issues regarding the 
     impact of religion on military operations.
       (6) Chaplains are non-combatants. Chaplains are not 
     authorized to obtain weapons qualifications, warfare 
     qualifications, or bear arms; however, chaplains who attained 
     weapons or warfare qualifications during prior service as a 
     combatant are authorized to wear their awards and/or warfare 
     qualifications. Chaplains are eligible to qualify for and to 
     wear the insignia of qualification designations such as Fleet 
     Marine Force, Basic Parachutist, and Navy/Marine Parachutist.
     6. Responsibilities of Commanders
       a. Commanders shall provide a Command Religious Program 
     (CRP) in support of religious needs and preferences of the 
     members of their commands, eligible family members and other 
     authorized personnel. The CRP is supported with appropriated 
     funds at a level consistent with other personnel programs 
     within DON.
       b. Chaplains will not be compelled to participate in 
     religious activities inconsistent with their beliefs.
       c. Commanders retain the responsibility to provide guidance 
     for all command functions. In planning command functions, 
     commanders shall determine whether a religious element is 
     appropriate. In considering the appropriateness for including 
     a religious element, commanders, with appropriate advice from 
     a chaplain, should assess the setting and context of the 
     function; the diversity of faith that may be represented 
     among the participants; and whether the function is mandatory 
     for all hands. Other than Divine/Religious Services, 
     religious elements for a command function, absent 
     extraordinary circumstances, should be non-sectarian in 
     nature. Neither the participation of a chaplain, nor the 
     inclusion of a religious element, in and of themselves, 
     renders a command function a Divine Service or public 
     worship. Once a commander determines a religious element is 
     appropriate, the chaplain may choose to participate based on 
     his or her faith constraints. If the chaplain chooses not to 
     participate, he or she may do so with no adverse 
     consequences. Anyone accepting a commander's invitation to 
     provide religious elements at a command function is 
     accountable for following the commander's guidance.
       d. Commanders shall, when in a combat area, only assign, 
     detail, or permit chaplains, as non-combatants under the 
     Geneva Convention, to perform such duties as are related to 
     religious ministry under Art. 1063 of reference (b).
       e. Commanders shall not assign chaplains collateral duties 
     that violate the religious practices of the chaplain's 
     religious organization or that require services in a capacity 
     in which the chaplain may later be called upon to reveal 
     privileged or sensitive information.
       f. Commanders shall not assign chaplains duties to act as 
     director, solicitor, or treasurer of funds, other than 
     administrator of a Religious Offering Fund; or serve on a 
     courtmartial; or stand watches other than that of duty 

                               U.S. Army

     Army Chaplains & Military/Patriotic Ceremonial Prayer: How 
         does the Army Chief of Chaplains address chaplains and 
         Military/Patriotic Ceremonial Prayer?
       AR 1651-1, Chaplain Activities in the United States Army, 
     has several pertinent statements. Paragraph. 1-4 a. reads, 
     ``In, striking a balance between the `establishment' and 
     `free exercise' clauses the Army chaplaincy, in providing 
     religious services and ministries to the command, is an 
     instrument of the U.S. Government to ensure that soldier's 
     religious `free exercise' rights are protected. At the same 
     time, chaplains are trained to avoid even the appearance of 
     any establishment of religion.'' Paragraph 4-4h. reads, 
     ``Military and patriotic ceremonies may require a chaplain to 
     provide an invocation, reading, prayer, or benediction. Such 
     occasions are not to be considered religious

[[Page S9717]]

     services. Chaplains will not be required to offer a prayer, 
     if doing so would be in variance with the tenets or practices 
     of their faith group.''
       Chaplains provide prayer within worship services governed 
     by the tenets of their faith. Chaplains also provide prayer 
     in public ceremonies which are patriotic/military (sometimes 
     called secular). The former are completely voluntary; the 
     latter are often required functions at which all manner of 
     people are present. It is at these non-worship ceremonies 
     that the Chaplains must consider their obligations to assist 
     every Soldier to pray.
       There is no Army regulatory guidance prohibiting an 
     individual from praying or directing an individual to pray in 
     any specific manner. AR 165-1 is intended to strike a balance 
     between a Chaplain's right to freely express his or her own 
     personal religious beliefs and the Chaplain's duty to ensure 
     that every Soldier is afforded his or her ``free exercise'' 
     rights under the Constitution.
       Pluralism and religious accommodation are trained 
     throughout the Chaplain life cycle with the bulk of the 
     subject matter conveyed in the foundation courses at the 
     Chaplain Officer Basic Course. AR 165-1 is the reference for 
     this training.
       The Army Chief of Chaplains sees no reason to provide 
     additional guidelines concerning Chaplains and public prayer 
     since AR 165-1 is sufficient.
       The Army Chief of Chaplains will not dictate how an Army 
     Chaplain performs his or her prayer. Chaplains are trained 
     and expected to use good judgment when addressing pluralistic 
     audiences at public, non-worship ceremonies.

                             U.S. Air Force

revised interim guidelines concerning free exercise of religion in the 
                               air force

       We are sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the 
     United States. In taking our oath we pledge our personal 
     commitment to the Constitution's protections for free 
     exercise of religion and its prohibition against government 
     establishment of religion.
       We will remain officially neutral regarding religious 
     beliefs, neither officially endorsing nor disapproving any 
     faith belief or absence of belief. We will accommodate free 
     exercise of religion and other personal beliefs, as well as 
     freedom of expression, except as must be limited by 
     compelling military necessity (with such limitations being 
     imposed in the least restrictive manner feasible). Commanders 
     should ensure that requests for religious accommodation are 
     welcomed and dealt with as fairly and consistently as 
     practicable throughout their commands. They should be 
     approved unless approval would have a real, not hypothetical, 
     adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, 
     standards, or discipline. Avoidance of schedule conflicts 
     between official activities and religious observances can 
     enhance unit effectiveness and demonstrate mutual respect.
       Chaplain service programs are the responsibility of 
     commanders. Chaplains impartially advise commanders in regard 
     to free exercise of religion, and implement programs of 
     religious support and pastoral care to help commanders care 
     for all their people, including opportunities for free 
     exercise of individual beliefs. We will respect the rights of 
     chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their religious faiths 
     and they will not be required to participate in religious 
     activities, including public prayer, inconsistent with their 
       Leaders at every level bear a special responsibility to 
     ensure their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed 
     to be officially endorsing nor disapproving any faith belief 
     or absence of belief. In official circumstances or when 
     superior/subordinate relationships are involved, superiors 
     need to be sensitive to the potential that personal 
     expressions may appear to be official, or have undue 
     influence on their subordinates. Subject to these 
     sensitivities, superiors enjoy the same free exercise rights 
     as all other airmen.
       Voluntary participation in worship, prayer, study, and 
     discussion is integral to the free exercise of religion. 
     Nothing in this guidance should be understood to limit the 
     substance of voluntary discussions of religion, or the 
     exercise of free speech, where it is reasonably clear that 
     the discussions are personal, not official, and they can be 
     reasonably free of the potential for, or appearance of, 
       Public prayer should not imply Government endorsement of 
     religion and should not usually be a part of routine official 
     business. Mutual respect and common sense should always be 
     applied, including consideration of unusual circumstances and 
     the needs of the command. Further, non-denominational, 
     inclusive prayer or a moment of silence may be appropriate 
     for military ceremonies or events of special importance when 
     its primary purpose is not the advancement of religious 
     beliefs. Military chaplains are trained in these matters.
       General rules regarding use of Government computers apply 
     to personal religious matters as they do for other personal 
     matters. Chaplain programs will receive communications 
     support as would comparable staff activities.
       These guidelines are consistent with the responsibility of 
     commanders to maintain good order and discipline, and are 
     consistent with the core values of the Air Force: integrity 
     first; service before self; and excellence in all we do.