Canadian Armed Forces Adivsory Panel Wants to Ban Christians as Chaplains

Like most militaries, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a chaplaincy corps where people provide spiritual care to the members of the armed forces. Because the armed forces is composed of people from general society, members of the chaplaincy corps can also be members of a variety of faiths and beliefs. This can make for some interesting situations for chaplains that have strongly-held beliefs about syncretism (ie the mixing of different faiths or beliefs) or giving even the appearance of co-operation with faiths that are divergent from their own. As long as each chaplain is permitted to work in accordance with their faith and isn’t mandated to provide spiritual services that is inconsistent their doctrine such a confessoinal Lutheran celebrating Holy Communion (this is Christ’s Body and Blood) using a Reformed formual (this represents Christ’s Body and Blood), it can work out.

Now a CAF Advisory Panel (CAF AP) has decided that’s not enough – if your beliefs don’t allow for people of various beliefs and genders in all parts of your faith organization, if you have any belief in absolute truth, then the CAF AP doesn’t think members of your faith can be or have a chaplain.

Following is the entire section 6 of the document for your review. I’ve bolded the more problematic parts and added my comments.

6. Re-Defining Chaplaincy

For many members of the Defence Team, religion can be a source of solace, optimism and compassion. Whether members of the CAF are at their home base or deployed, they can reach out to their unit’s chaplain. According to the CAF website, chaplains are “responsible for fostering the spiritual, religious, and pastoral care of Canadian Armed Forces members and their families, regardless of religious affiliation, practice, and/or belief. They have an open attitude and promote diversity within the Canadian Armed Forces by providing an environment that is caring and compassionate.”Footnote117 The Defence Team also recognizes the importance of an individual’s potential need for effective support in ethical guidance or spirituality through the new Total Health and Wellness Strategic Framework.Footnote118

(ANO: Christians do have an open attitude – they want all to come to the knowledge of Christ and have faith in Him to everlasting life. The problem is that means acknowledging certain God-given statements of truth and the roles of men and women that CAF’s advisory panel says conflicst with DEI.)

It is necessary as well to recognize that, for some Canadians, religion can be a source of suffering and generational trauma. This is especially true for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited members of Canadian society. And Indigenous Peoples have suffered unimaginable generational trauma and genocide at the hands of Christian religious leaders through initiatives such as Residential School and Indian Day School programs.

(ANO: This is painting an entire community with the brush of a few bad apples. Also missing from this narriative is any mention of the great good that people of faith have worked in indigenous communities, that many indigenous people are members of a Christian faith, or that some residential school experiences were good experiences for the children that attended them.)

Another important point is that, at present, some chaplains represent or are affiliated with organized religions whose beliefs are not synonymous with those of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Some of the affiliated religions of these chaplains do not subscribe to an open attitude and the promotion of diversity

(ANO: This is an example of DEI being held out as a faith belief and giving it greater primacy compared to other faiths. The CAF AP is saying any faith that makes absolute truth claims and explicitly disallows other alternatives by definition does not promote diversity and should be excluded.)

For example, some churches’ exclusion of women from their priesthoods violates principles of equality and social justice, as do sexist notions embedded in their religious dogmas. In addition, certain faiths have strict tenets requiring conversion of those they deem to be “pagan,” or who belong to polytheistic religions. These faiths’ dogmas and practices conflict with the commitment of the Defence Team to value equality and inclusivity at every level of the workplace.

(ANO: This is consistent with faiths that believe in absolute truth to the exlcusion of all others – they want others to come to know the truth that they teach. Where the faith mandates that men and women have their respective roles in the church, that will conflict with secular ideas of ‘equality’ and ‘inclusivity’.)

If the Defence Team rejects gender discrimination, anti-Indigenous discrimination, and racialized discrimination in every other area and is working hard to remove systemic barriers to the employment of marginalized people, it cannot justify hiring representatives of organizations who marginalize certain people or categorically refuse them a position of leadership.

(ANO: The chaplaincy corps exists to provide spiritual support to CAF members so they can be better at their jobs. By excluding chaplains of certain beliefs the CAF is discriminating against those faiths. That will result in decreased CEF readiness and capability.)

The Advisory Panel has observed that there are varying degrees of misogyny, sexism and discrimination woven into the philosophies and beliefs of some mainstream religions currently represented in the cadre of chaplains in the CAF. This Advisory Panel does not seek to evaluate or categorize these religions in this report. Rather it is pointing out that the Defence Team cannot consider itself supportive of inclusivity when it employs as chaplains members of organizations whose values are not consistent with National Defence’s ethics and values—even if those members express non-adherence to the policies of their chosen religion. For example, it can be assumed that if a religion openly forbade a Black person to serve within its ranks, its members would be banned from the Chaplaincy in the CAF. The same scrutiny should be applied to those religions that forbid women to serve within their ranks or are against equal rights for same-sex couples.

(ANO: The advisory panel absolutely does evaluate and categorize religions in this report – the panel is saying if a faith is not all-in on DEI then people with those beliefs should be excluded from being chaplains, and that practitioners of that faith will be denied the possibility of chaplain service consistent with their faith.)

Recommendations

  • 6.1 Do not consider for employment as spiritual guides or multi-faith representatives Chaplaincy applicants affiliated with religious groups whose values are not aligned with those of the Defence Team. The Defence Team’s message, otherwise, is inconsistent.
  • 6.2 Select chaplains representative of many faiths including forms of spirituality beyond the Abrahamic faiths.
  • 6.3 Review the selection process for chaplains to ensure that, in addition to listening skills, empathy and emotional intelligence, there is an intrinsic appreciation for diversity and a willingness to challenge one’s beliefs. (ANO: In other words, belief in absolute truth is not allowed)
  • 6.4 Find ways to grant educational equivalencies, for example to knowledge keepers, rather than strictly adhering to the prerequisite that all chaplains must have a master’s degree.

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