Saturday, June 2, 2007
Football Chaplain Endangers Separation Between Church and State, Detractors Clalim
As a chaplain for a volunteer fire department, I found the AP news brief out of Des Moines this week disappointing. Apparently more than 100 faculty members at Iowa State University have signed a petition that opposes the football coach's plan to establish a chaplain as an official member of the team's staff.
Although the position will be funded by private donations, and despite the fact that there is a well established precedent both in the government and private sector for chaplains, faculty claim that "hiring a chaplain is improper at a public university given the separation between church and state. And they said the move would favor Christianity over other religions. 'Are you going to have counseling for Jewish students? Muslim students? There's no such thing as one religion or one version of Christianity,' said Dr. Hector Avolos, a professor of religious studies at ISU.' "
And how have similar positions in the military, public safety organizations, service clubs, and even industry created such a situation that the nation has not cried foul long before now? This is ridiculous! As a nation we have an enviable history of including pastoral care in the public sphere while still respecting and honoring each person's religious beliefs and convictions. When I was interviewed as part of my application for a chaplain's commission in the U.S. Navy, I was specifically asked how I might handle a situation involving a request from a Muslim solider. In this case it involved copies of the Qu'ran (Koran). Simple - acquisition the books. Period.
A chaplain recognizes that he lives between two worlds, and in so far as it does not compromise his faith, he can serve outside the parameters of his specific role. In the military chaplains serve at times as morale officers. Sometimes they teach classes that involve important life issues affecting soldiers and their families. As a chaplain for the fire department it would be my policy that if a person in need, be it a firefighter or victim, was of a faith different than my own, I would work to find other clergy to serve them. It's really not that difficult to work out.
I hope that ISU rethinks this matter.