But others say that the military must permit these faith-specific prayers because the chaplains have a constitutional right to pray as their specific faith requires; they argue that this right is guaranteed by either the Free Exercise Clause, which protects religious liberty, or the Free Speech Clause, which limits the government’s ability to restrict the content of private speech.
So one side is arguing that the Constitution prohibits faith-specific prayers and another side is arguing that the Constitution guarantees chaplains a right to offer faith-specific prayers.
Instead of finding that the Free Exercise Clause the military to provide chaplains so long as it does so in response to the religious needs of service members. C., rejected one of these challenges to the Navy’s chaplain selection criteria. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But what if the government responded to these religious needs by providing chaplains in a way that favored some religions over others? These lawsuits allege that the Navy has hired chaplains using a “thirds policy.” According to the people bringing the suits, the Navy used a formula dividing its chaplains into thirds: one-third consisting of liturgical Protestant denominations (such as such as Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians and Presbyterians); another third consisting of Catholics; and a last third consisting of non-liturgical Protestant denominations (such as Baptists, evangelicals, Bible churches, Pentecostals and charismatics) and other faiths. The court held that the Navy had abandoned the thirds policy and said that its current criteria were constitutional because the Navy has broad discretion to determine how to accommodate the religious needs of its service members. What if the military asked a chaplain to pray at an official event and the chaplain offered a prayer specific to his faith tradition – for example, by praying in Jesus’ name? Your question touches on what has become, over the past couple of years, the most public and heated controversy within the military chaplaincy.
There also have been a number of stories of service men and women in various branches of the military being pressured to participate in prayers.