Thursday, February 11, 2016
Patrick J. Murphy
Acting Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101
Dear Mr. Acting Secretary Murphy:
I am writing to express the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s great concern that Army Chaplains are attending assault training and even carrying weapons.
The Army recently posted an online article entitled “Special Forces Tab, Green Beret, SFQC – A Vehicle For Chaplains” (see addendum, pages 3-5). The article tells the stories of three Army Chaplains – Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Smith, Chaplain (Maj.) Timothy Maracle, and Chaplain (Maj.) Peter Hofman – who have completed the Special Forces Qualification Force (“SFQC”). While the article highlighted the sense of camaraderie with Special Forces soldiers these Chaplains claim such training fostered, it neglected to mention that these Chaplains are violating Army Regulations.
Army Regulation 165-1 states:
3-1f. Noncombatant. Chaplains will not bear arms in combat or in unit combat skills training. Chaplains function as protected personnel under the Geneva Convention and are noncombatants as a matter of Army policy (see FM 27-10). Chaplain activities in religious support operations will not compromise the noncombatant status. (emphasis added)
As you know, violation of an Army Regulation is punishable under the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While only Chaplain (Maj.) Hofman admitted to carrying a weapon, it can safely be presumed that all three of these Chaplains used weapons while participating in the SFQC. Consequently, the Army should punish this clear violation, rather than praising it as a “vehicle for Chaplains.”
This regulation is necessary for the protection of Chaplains, as well as all others granted noncombatant status, such as medical personnel. It is designed to allow, even in war, for the spiritual care of combatants and POWs. If a handful of Chaplains violate this very clear regulation, the enemy has no reason to honor the protected status of any noncombatant.
While these Chaplains apparently believe that going through SFQC and carrying weapons helps them connect with the Special Forces soldiers they will counsel, MRFF submits it will actually have the opposite effect. In the article, Chaplain (Maj.) Hofman directly compared his mission with Special Forces with the mission of Jesus. As if that weren’t enough of a problem, he did so while carrying a weapon. The chilling effect such conviction while armed will have on the willingness of soldiers to seek counsel from him can only be monumental.
Regardless of any benefits these Chaplains believe are received from completing SFQC and carrying weapons, the nature of the military is to obey orders even if doing so causes great risk to that soldier’s own life. We demand that the Army Regulations be obeyed and that these Chaplains be disciplined for their violations as required by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq.
Founder and President
Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Hon. Ruth S. Vetter, Esq. – Director, Standards of Conduct Office, Department of Defense General Counsel
Gen. Mark A. Milley, U.S. Army Chief of Staff
CH (MG) Paul K. Hurley, Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army