Ninety percent of Americans say they believe in a higher power, with 56 percent stating their belief in the God of the Bible. In a nation where religious belief is this widespread, one would think that the chaplaincy of our government and military would not be controversial.
According to some, however, having chaplains minister to our lawmakers amounts to a violation of “church-state separation.” As FRC’s Travis Weber has pointed out in a recent op-ed, this assertion is an oft-repeated misreading of the Constitution, which contains no legal separation of faith from the public square:
In July 1950, during the Battle of Taejon early in the Korean War, enemy forces cut off and trapped a number of wounded U.S. troops who could no longer move across the difficult terrain. One Army chaplain, Herman Felhoelter, provided physical and spiritual care even as North Korean soldiers approached. After ordering the medic assisting him to flee, the chaplain continued to minister to the wounded up until the moment he was shot along with his men.
Felhoelter’s story is only one among many throughout the distinguished history of our military chaplaincy. For 247 years, the U.S. Army has provided for chaplains in order to facilitate the free exercise of religion by those serving in our armed forces — such as those who lay wounded and dying on the Korean Peninsula that day. Who knows what spiritual care and comfort they drew from Chaplain Felhoelter as they took what they likely knew were their last breaths?
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