Remembrance Day and the Secular Shift: A Chaplain’s Dilemma



November 3, 2023

Some ire has been raised by a directive issued to military chaplains regarding public prayer on Remembrance Day. The government-issued directive states, “While the dimension of prayer may occupy a significant place for some of our members, we do not all pray in the same way; for some, prayer does not play a role in their lives.” Therefore, it says, “it is essential for chaplains to adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach when publicly addressing military members.”

Minister of National Defense Bill Blair has made several public statements indicating a reversal of the position, but so far the October 11th military directive remains in effect.

A follow-up note from leadership made it clear that this was a “new direction that aims to make public parades more secular and inclusive.”

Last year, the Minister of National Defense also raised attention with their ‘Redefining Chaplaincy’ report – specifically recommendation 6.1. That recommendation states, “Do not consider for employment…Chaplaincy applicants affiliated with religious groups whose values are not aligned with those of the Defence Team.”

Military chaplaincy – where religious clergy operate within the military hierarchy – raises some interesting questions about where the authority of the state ends and the authority of the church begins. It seems to me that in these cases the authority of the state is being used in an attempt to strong-arm chaplains into obeying man rather than God.

When it comes to Remembrance Day services, true comfort for the grieving and those remembering the sacrifices of our armed forces comes not from the crafted, politically correct words of military leadership, but rather the true comfort of the divine word which can only come from the word of God. Asking chaplains to avoid prayer to be more inclusive only further distances secular Canadians from the God they need.

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