Randy Forbes and Military Chaplains -- More Crap From H. Res. 888
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Mar 11, 2008 at 05:26:13 PM EST
On March 6, Randy Forbes's House Resolution 888, for the designation of an "American Religious History Week," gained 2 more co-sponsors, bringing the current total to 80 -- 75 Republicans, and 5 Democrats.

As I noted in a previous post on this abominable resolution, Mr. Forbes, the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was instrumental in holding up passage of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act for several weeks over the Senate's removal of a military chaplain prayer provision authorizing chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus at military invocations. The guidelines for Air Force chaplains were rewritten in 2005 and revised in 2006 after Mikey Weinstein, the Founder and President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), exposed the religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In 2006, the Navy also instituted a new policy regarding prayers at command functions.

For someone who has been so active in the battle over military chaplains' prayers, it's interesting that Mr. Forbes would neglect to mention that the quotes in the following 2 of the resolution's 75 "Whereases" are from documents that resulted from a widespread movement to abolish the chaplaincy.

"Whereas in 1853 the U. S. Senate declared that the Founding Fathers 'had no fear or jealousy of religion itself, nor did they wish to see us an irreligious people . . . they did not intend to spread over all the public authorities and the whole public action of the nation the dead and revolting spectacle of atheistical apathy';"

"Whereas in 1854 the United States House of Representatives declared 'It [religion] must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. . . . Christianity; in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions';"

So, did Mr. Forbes deliberately omit the context of these quotes, or is he just oblivious to the fact that that they're related to a 150 year old dispute over government paid chaplains? I would say it's the latter -- he just doesn't know where the quotes came from. Why? Because he got them from pseudo-historian David Barton's Original Intent, a book that doesn't bother to mention their context either. How can I be so certain that Mr. Forbes relied upon the work of Barton rather than drawing his historical "facts" from original documents? Well, in this case, it's his footnotes that give him away.

These are the footnotes from H. Res. 888 for the above "Whereases," footnotes which are identical to those in Barton's book:

"36 The Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Thirty-Second Congress, 1852-53 (Washington: Robert Armstrong, 1853), pp. 1-4. "

"37 Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), pp. 1, 6, 8-9. "

Now, why shouldn't Mr. Forbes's and David Barton's footnotes be identical if they were quoting the same documents? How is this evidence that Mr. Forbes was copying Barton? Well, one telltale sign is the page numbers. For the first "Whereas," Mr. Forbes's footnote cites pages 1-4 of a report, and for the second, pages 1, 6, and 8-9. Obviously, the short quotes in these "Whereases" wouldn't span multiple, let alone nonconsecutive, pages. Barton, however, in Original Intent, quoted much longer passages from these reports, so the excerpts that he assembled for his book did contain sentences from all the various pages listed in his footnote. But, if Mr. Forbes had been looking at the actual reports, he would have known that the parts of these quotes that he was copying appear on page 4 of the first report, and page 8 of the second, and would not have listed all the other pages cited by Barton. If that isn't enough to convince anyone that Mr. Forbes was just copying Barton's footnotes, there is also the fact that neither cite the report numbers. The pages in these volumes of reports are not numbered like most books. Each report they contain is individually page numbered. In other words, page 2 of any given report is numbered page 2, no matter where it falls in the book. The table of contents lists the reports by report number. Mr. Forbes's first footnote, for example, should say Report No. 376, page 4, but, since he was just copying Barton, their identical footnotes both omit the same information.

Further evidence that Mr. Forbes had no idea what he was quoting in the two above examples is the fact that for a completely separate "Whereas" he quotes from one of the very same reports, this time to mention congressional chaplains.

"Whereas in 1853 Congress declared that congressional chaplains have a 'duty . . . to conduct religious services weekly in the Hall of the House of Representatives';"

While I cant find this one in David Barton's Original Intent, the formatting of the footnote is identical to the other two, with the same omission of a report number, so I'd say it's a safe bet that it comes from another of Barton's many publications.

Now, back to what these reports have to do with the military chaplaincy, a subject so near and dear to Mr. Forbes that it's the only issue listed on the Legislative Issues page of his Congressional Prayer Caucus website. One of the three documents on this page is a Military Chaplain Timeline, a timeline that skips the entire nineteenth century and virtually all of the twentieth century, jumping from the first item -- the recognition of chaplains in 1775 -- right to a 1999 Air Force Policy Directive.

To get up to the time of the reports quoted in H. Res. 888 without going into too much detail, it needs to be understood that there really wasn't much of a military chaplaincy during the War of 1812 or up through the time of the Mexican-American War. Naval commanders had been authorized to appoint chaplains, but many of these were not ordained ministers, and their purpose was as much to be instructors in everything from reading and writing to navigational skills as it as to be preachers. Some officers even saw their authority to appoint a chaplain as a way to get a personal secretary, and chose them for their ability to perform that job, with little regard for their religious qualifications. During the War of 1812, there was one army chaplain for as many as 8,000 men, and, with the exception of the 1818 appointment of a chaplain at West Point, who doubled as a professor of history, geography, and ethics, there were no new army chaplains until 1838, with the authorization of a small number of post chaplains. These army chaplains, like their counterparts in the navy, were hired mainly as teachers, and also served as everything from librarians to mess officers to defense counsel during courts-martial. Only twenty of the army's seventy posts were authorized to hire a chaplain. Post chaplains were civilians hired by the post's council of administration. They were not assigned to the military unit that they served, but to the post itself, so when the Mexican-American War began, they did not accompany the troops.

In 1847, Congress passed a law transferring the control over post chaplains from the post councils to the Secretary of War, giving the Secretary of War the authority to require a chaplain to accompany their post's troops into the field whenever a majority of the troops were deployed. Those chaplains who refused to go were fired. This law caused a bit of a problem because it didn't actually give anyone the authority to appoint chaplains for the army. In fact, when President Polk appointed two Catholic "chaplains" in an effort to stop the propaganda that the war was an attack upon the Mexicans' religion, he made these as political appointments rather than chaplain appointments, saying that there was no law authorizing army chaplains. The total number of army chaplains during the Mexican-American War was fifteen, including these two Catholic priests who weren't actually chaplains.

By the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, opposition to government paid chaplains was already brewing. Contrary to the assertion by the Christian nationalist history revisionists that church/state battles were unknown before 1947, protests against religious legislation have been going on since the early 1800s.

The mid-1800s fight to abolish both the military and congressional chaplaincies, which went on for well over a decade, doesn't seem to have been sparked by any one single issue or event, but by a combination of factors. A large part of the general public objected to these establishments on constitutional grounds, religious organizations objected to them on both religious and constitutional grounds, and military personnel, including chaplains, objected to them for a variety of reasons, including complaints of religious coercion and discrimination uncannily similar to those heard today.

Does the following sound familiar to anyone?

"Mr. Hamlin presented the memorial of Joseph Stockbridge, a chaplain in the navy, praying the enactment of a law to protect chaplains in the performance of divine service on shipboard, according to the practices and customs of the churches of which they may be members, which was referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs."(1)

Well, this is from 1858...not 2005!

The memorial of Chaplain Stockbridge, and a number of petitions from Baptist and Presbyterian organizations and other groups, make it pretty clear that there was not only a problem with naval officers requiring non-Episcopalian chaplains to perform Episcopalian services, but also an unfair preference for Episcopalians in the appointment of chaplains. In response to these complaints, Congress investigated the matter, requesting reports like that described in the following House resolution.

"Resolved, That the Secretary of the Navy, during the present session, be requested to communicate to this House the number of chaplains appointed in any branch of the navy service since 1813; the religious denomination to which each person so appointed was attached, so far as it can be ascertained; whether chaplains, by any navy regulation, or any act of commanders of vessels or stations, are required to use a particular uniform or clerical dress, including a gown, or to read prayers, or to comply with any particular forms or ceremonies of Divine service; and whether there is any evidence on file in the department tending to show that non-Episcopal ministers are required by officers of the navy to use the Episcopal liturgy."(2)

The report of the Secretary of the Navy in answer to this House resolution left the denominations of most of the chaplains blank, but a similar report provided by the army a few years earlier revealed a clear domination by Episcopalians. That report showed that of the eighty army chaplains appointed between 1813 and 1856, over half had been Episcopalian, outnumbering Presbyterians four to one, Baptists over eight to one, Methodists by nearly fifteen to one, etc.

In An Act to increase and regulate the Pay of the Navy of the United States, passed on June 1, 1860, Congress addressed one of the complaints, with the following provision.

"Every chaplain shall be permitted to conduct public worship according to the manner and forms of the church of which he may be a member."(3)

But, then, rather than addressing the inequality among the various denominations, they put the following in An Act providing for better Organization of the Military Establishment, passed on August 3, 1861.

"Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That one chaplain shall be allowed to each regiment of the army, to be selected and appointed as the President may direct: Provided, That none but regularly ordained ministers of some Christian denomination shall be eligible to selection or appointment."(4)

A similar provision to that in the act for the regular army also appeared in the July 22, 1861 act authorizing the president to raise a volunteer force, which stated that a chaplain "must be a regular ordained minister of a Christian denomination."(5)

No prior legislation authorizing chaplains had ever mandated that chaplains had to be of a particular religion, or even that they had to be ordained ministers. Apparently, the early congresses were conscious of that pesky "no religious test" clause in the Constitution, applying it even to the office of chaplain. The description in the 1838 law authorizing the councils of administration to hire post chaplains, for example, was simply "such person as they may think proper to officiate as chaplain."(6)

After a public outcry and numerous petitions from Jewish organizations, groups of citizens, and even the members of one state legislature, the 1861 provision requiring chaplains to be Christians was repealed. The new qualifications appeared in An Act to define the Pay and Emoluments of certain Officers of the Army, and for other Purposes, passed on July 17, 1862.

"That no person shall be appointed a chaplain in the United States army who is not a regularly ordained minister of some religious denomination, and who does not present testimonials of his present good standing as such minister, with a recommendation for his appointment as an army chaplain from some authorized ecclesiastical body, or not less than five accredited ministers belonging to said religious denomination."(7)

There was a resolution introduced in the House a in January 1862 that included a provision stating that no more than one-fourth of the chaplains at any given time could belong to the same ecclesiastical body, but nothing appears to have come of this.

Now, as I mentioned before getting into these events of 1858 to 1862, the battle over chaplains actually began in the late 1840s, at the time of the Mexican-American War. The requests for oversight and reform in the late 1850s and early 1860s were made only after a massive effort to completely abolish the chaplaincy had failed. The 1853 and 1854 reports quoted by Mr. Forbes in H. Res. 888 are from that battle.

Beginning in 1848, countless petitions poured into both houses of Congress calling for an end to the military and congressional chaplaincies. The first of these to be presented in the Senate was from a Baptist association in North Carolina.

"Mr. BADGER presented the memorial, petition, and remonstrance of the ministers and delegates representing the churches which compose the Kehukee Primitive Baptist Association, assembled in Conference with the Baptist Church at Great Swamp, Pitt county, North Carolina praying that Congress will abolish all laws or resolutions now in force respecting the establishment of religion, whereby Chaplains to Congress, the army, and navy, are employed and paid to exercise their religious functions.

"Mr. BADGER said he wished it to be understood that he did not concur in the object of this memorial. He thought the petitioners were entirely wrong. But as the petition was couched in respectful language, he would ask for its reading and would then move that it be laid on the table and printed."(8)

Note the name Mr. Badger here. George Edmund Badger was the senator who, six years later, wrote the report dismissing these petitions that Mr. Forbes quotes in H. Res. 888. Obviously, this was not someone who was going to be objective in considering the many similar petitions he was asked to report on. Senator Badger was not only a devout Episcopalian -- the denomination that had taken over the military chaplaincy -- but had been Secretary of the Navy before becoming a senator. So serious was Badger about his religion that when North Carolina's Bishop, Levi Silliman Ives, was accused of incorporating doctrines and rituals of the "Romish Church" into the Protestant Episcopal Church, the senator wrote An Examination of the Doctrines Declared and Powers Claimed by the Right Reverend Bishop Ives, and published it anonymously as "A Layman of of the Protestant Episcopal Church in North Carolina," helping to force the retirement of the bishop. Congressman James Meacham, who wrote the similar report in the House -- the other report quoted in H. Res. 888 -- was a Congregationalist minister until being elected to the House to fill a vacancy.

There had actually been another report prior to those of Meacham and Badger, which were written in 1853 and 1854, but that report, written in 1850 by Congressman James Thompson, while reporting adversely on the petitions that had been presented in the House at that time, did not contain the "Christian nation" rhetoric of the later reports, so it's of no use to today's "Christian nation" crowd.

As already mentioned, many of the protests against government chaplains came from religious organizations -- primarily the Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists.

The following was written Rev. William Anderson Scott, one of the most prominent Presbyterian ministers of his day, in his 1859 book The Bible and Politics, a book written in part to refute an an Episcopalian Bishop's pro- Bible in public schools book that, as Rev. Scott put it, was "designed to show that religion is connected with everything American." Rev. Scott makes a number of references to California in this excerpt, due to the fact that this is where he was at the time, having moved there a number of years earlier to establish a Presbyterian church and seminary in the new state. This is from the section of his book rebutting the commonly used argument that "The Continental Congress opened its sessions with prayer, and it is our custom to have chaplains."

"I do not take the ground (as some have done in vindicating our government for not providing for the support of a religion, or in defense of our Legislature for not electing chaplains,) that the church and the closet are the only proper places for prayer; for it is no part of the duty of our government to provide a religion either for the people or for their legislators. In the sense of deciding what religion is, or of deciding which is true or which is false -- and which, therefore, is to be sustained and which put down -- the American Government knows no religion. It is not for the government, therefore, to pay any one for offering prayer or reciting a creed. The government allows every one to believe what creed he pleases, and to pray as much as he pleases, and whenever he pleases, provided he does not, on the plea of so doing, commit a trespass or become a nuisance. Every citizen, whether an office-holder or a mere voter, is to enjoy his ewn religion, or do without any, but the government does not undertake to support any citizen's religion; nor do I see how it is possible for a popular government, like ours, to occupy any other platform. We are a multitude of peoples, and of every kind of opinion, and, as citizens, all equal, and the moment any form or creed of religion is preferred by the government, that moment a difference is made, a preference is shown, which is directly contrary to our fundamental laws.

"Nor is it true that our legislators and congressmen 'represent the moral and religious status of their constituents;' and that, therefore, it is the first duty of a civilized people, in its legislative halls, to reverence the Deity, 'and that, consequently, chaplains must be elected and paid out of the State treasury.' Our legislators are not elected to represent our moral and religious status, but our civil rights, and our civil rights only so far as they have been surrendered to the Government. But among the rights surrendered there is no power given to the Legislature to make laws to secure the reading of the Bible. We do not vote for members to the Legislature on religious grounds. It is impossible for them to represent the morality and religious belief of their constituents. Nor does the Constitution give them any power over our religious status. Our legislators, then, have just as much right to take the people's money to buy their coats with as to pay a chaplain to say prayers for them. If a chaplain is needful, it is as a personal necessity, and not as a civil or legislative one. But this is not prohibiting the members of the Legislature from having a chaplain, provided they employ and pay him on their individual account. Nor is this hindering the members from being pious. God forbid. But have they not homes in which to pray, and may they not go to Church on the Lord's day, selecting their own place of worship? It seems to me just as necessary and as constitutional for the government to appoint a chaplain to every Court, and have every jury impannelled upon prayer.

"But, then, it is argued, we must have a chaplain in the Legislature, in order to show that California is not altogether beyond the pale of civilization -- that is, we must put the cloak of piety over the Legislature elect, and pay a man to pray for our lawgivers, in order to make our characters respectable abroad. I had supposed hypocrisy was a species of irreligion. Besides, I have yet to hear, for the first time, the charge from abroad that California is beyond the restraints of religion and morality, because there is no chaplain in her Legislature. I have heard that bribery, gambling and lawlessness had made us appear as a reckless, God-forsaken people; but I have never heard that we were disgraced for not having the prayers of our legislators said by proxy.

"Some of the advocates of chaplains lament that there has been in our Legislature so much 'disgraceful squabbling' over the election, and failure to elect a chaplain. And this is just one of the reasons why there should be no such election, and no such an officer known to the Legislature, as such. Has it ever been, or will it ever be otherwise than that political and partizan views should, more or less, control such elections? Those who have seen most, and thought most on this subject, admit that such elections have been mainly partizan movements.

"But it is contended that the Legislature, in not electing chaplains, shows an impious disregard for the custom of other Legislatures, and for religion itself. Is this true? Has Virginia, or New York, or Pennsylvania, or Louisiana a chaplain? Is the House of Commons, or the Assembly of France, or the House of Lords, with its bench of bishops, opened with prayer? Is the Supreme Court opened with prayer? If not, is it an impious institution? So Dr. Cheever may consider it, but the American people and our laws have not so decided. And where and how is this kind of legislating away the people's money for religion to end, if we once begin? For, surely, if the Legislature must have a chaplain, so supported, our asylums, and hospitals, and state prisons have a much greater need for chaplains. For our legislators are supposed to be free, able-bodied men, who can attend church, while the inmates of our houses of mercy and correction cannot do so.

"But it is said, and with some force, 'the Federal Government may send chaplains with its armies and fleets, because it should provide the consolations of religion for all its servants, and that the minister of religion is as necessary as the surgeon.' To deny this, seems indeed a great hardship, if not a species of cruelty. But there never has been instituted among men a perfect government. Some imperfection or defect is found in them all. If chaplains could be appointed equally acceptable to all, and without showing a preference for a creed or sect, then, perhaps, the army and navy could be thus supplied. But this is not the case. Thus far, almost all such appointments have been made from one of the smallest denominations in the country, and that, too, against the religious preferences of nine-tenths of the men in the army and navy. I do not profess here to speak with mathematical accuracy, but I believe I am very nearly correct. Is this right? Is it constitutional for the Federal Government to give such a preference to one of the smallest churches in the land? Is it constitutional to take the public money to pay a chaplain for religious services that are not acceptable to a majority of the rank and file of the army? I do not think so. If the majority of a regiment, or of the men on board a man-of-war, should elect a chaplain, then, possibly, the Government might make an appropriation to pay him, though I doubt whether this is constitutional, and I do not believe it the best way. I believe that the supplying of religious consolations to the members of our Legislature, and to the officers and men of our army and navy, according to our organic laws, should be left to themselves, just as it is to our merchant ships and to our frontier settlements -- that is, to their own voluntary support. Our blacksmiths, police officers, Front-street merchants, lawyers and physicians all need the blessings of religion; but they must provide for their own individual wants. And, in the same way, I would leave the army and the navy and the legislatures, and I would do so the more readily, because the different churches and voluntary religious societies would then all stand truly on an equality, and hold themselves ready to help in furnishing such supplies. Suppose a regiment is ordered to the wilderness, let the men elect a chaplain and pay him themselves. Then they will be more likely to profit by his services. Or let a missionary society, by the vote of the citizen soldiers, be asked to send them a minister of religion. If the government appoints a Protestant chaplain, is it a disobedience of orders for a Catholic to refuse to accept of his services? I see nothing but difficulty and the engendering of constant sectarian feuds and bad feeling, if the Federal Government touches anything that is religious."(9)

The following report of the 1868 General Conference of the Methodist Church shows that even twenty years after the first petitions began flowing into Congress, the issues -- particularly the domination by Episcopalians -- had not yet been resolved. By this time, attempts to entirely abolish the chaplaincy had, for the most part, been abandoned, but the fight for the next best thing -- an equality in the appointment of chaplains -- continued.

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON CHAPLAINCIES IN THE ARMY AND NAVY.

"The Committee to which was referred the subject of Chaplaincies in the Army and Navy present the following report:

"There is a deep and wide-spread conviction that great, though, perhaps, unintentional injustice has been done to the leading religious denominations of the land in the appointment of Chaplains to the Army and Navy. These appointments have been confined, if not exclusively, yet very largely, to one of the smallest branches of the Christian Church. A practical union of Church and State could scarcely have secured to it a more exclusive monoply, as the following facts and figures will clearly demonstrate:

"The various branches of the Methodist Church in the United States number 2,358,425; the several Presbyterian bodies nearly 1,000,000, and the united divisions of the Baptists fully 1,300,000. These three gigantic denominations, with an aggregate membership of 4,658,425, had, at the time of the latest official report to which your committee had access, eleven chaplains in the navy of the Republic, while the Protestant Episcopal Church, with the comparatively small membership of 154,000, entitling it to one clerical representative, had sixteen clergymen in the service.

"Other facts are equally suggestive. Twenty-three years have elapsed since the establishment of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. During eighteen years of the time, chaplains, representing the Protestant Episcopal clergy, have had the exclusive religious training of the successive classes. The Presbyterians and Congregationalists were represented for five years, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, a Church which gave more men to the nation during its years of peril than any other, was represented just three weeks! A Methodist minister was appointed, but his appointment was the occasion for earnest efforts lor his displacement -- efforts which, we are sorry to state, were but too successful; and Rev. C. A. Davis, a man of God, possessed of fine pulpit abilities, pastoral energy, personal popularity, and peculiar adaptation to the work, was retired from the place before he had entered upon his official duties, and his place supplied by a clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The same is true of the appointments to West Point, and in the regular army. Is it not high time for the three overshadowing branches of American Protestantism -- and, indeed, for all branches -- to unite in an earnest protest against this unequal distribution of chaplaincies in the army and navy, and this great outrage upon their denominational dignity. Hundreds of the sons of members of these denominations are gathered to these institutions, and their religious culture is a question of vital importance. Too many of those under whose religious tuition they are placed, according to the testimony of eminent evangelical Protestant Episcopal clergymen, whom we all delight to honor, are rapidly drifting into mere ritualism and semi-popery. We call attention, therefore, to this matter, not to excite mere sectarian bigotry. The question touches deeper interests than those excited by mere denominational pride. States number 2,358,425; the several Presbyterian bodies nearly 1,000,000, and the united divisions of the Baptists fully 1,300,000. These three gigantic denominations, with an aggregate membership of 4,658,425, had, at the time of the latest official report to which your Committee had access, eleven chaplains in the navy of the Republic, while the Protestant Episcopal Church, with the comparatively small membership of 154,000, entitling it to less than one clerical representative, had sixteen clergymen in the service.

"What is the remedy? We answer, In more equal legislation only. In this way alone can the unequal and unjust policy be corrected. The various denominations should unite in memoralizing Congress to enact that the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, in selecting chaplains, shall not appoint more than a fixed proportion for any one denomination, and that the position shall not be held for longer than a fixed time by the ministers of any one Church. These appointments, in part at least, ought to be made from civil life.

"Your Committee recommend for adoption the following resolutions:

"Resolved, 1. By the General Conference, in the name and in behalf of the ministers and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, that we hereby protest the unequal and unjust appointment of chaplains in the Military and Naval Academies, and in the Army and Navy of the United States.

"Resolved, 2. That a Committee of five, consisting of three ministers, one of whom shall be a Bishop, and two laymen, be appointed to confer with other religious bodies, and also to memorialize Congress in order to secure proper legislation on the subject."(10)

Another thing protested during this period was a naval regulation enacted during the very religious Adams administration, requiring attendance at religious services aboard ships. Mr. Forbes quotes this regulation in one of his H. Res. 888 "Whereases," but leaves out the aspect of these services being mandatory.

"Whereas in 1800, Congress enacted naval regulations requiring that Divine service be performed twice every day aboard 'all ships and vessels in the navy,' with a sermon preached each Sunday;"

This was the complete article:

"Art. II. The commanders of all ships and vessels in the navy, having chaplains on board, shall take care that divine service be performed in a solemn, orderly, and reverent manner twice a day, and a sermon be preached on Sunday, unless bad weather, or extraordinary accidents prevent it; and that they cause all, or as many of the ship's company as can be spared from duty, to attend at every performance of worship of Almighty God."(11)

Thomas Jefferson did change the duties of naval chaplains quite a bit in 1802, but nothing in these changes repealed the regulation enacted in 1800 under the Adams administration, so a commander's authority -- actually their duty -- to force their subordinates to attend religious services remained in force. This clearly unconstitutional regulation also became an issue during the chaplain battle, and was one of the reforms sought after it became apparent that the chaplaincy would not be abolished. In 1858, a memorial was received in the House from officers of the Navy to make attendance at these religious services optional.

"By Mr. Kelly: The memorial of officers of the navy of the United States, praying that the act of Congress passed April 23, 1800, compelling commanders of all ships or vessels in the navy, having chaplains on board, to take care that Divine service is performed twice a day, be so amended as to read that the commanders or captains invite all to attend; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary."(12)

Since the Christian nationalist history revisionists seem to be so fond of lengthy lists, as is evident in their books and on their websites, as well as inH. Res. 888 with its 75 "Whereases," here's a nice long list of petitions reported in the House, calling for the abolition of the government's chaplain establishments. Countless similar petitions were also received by the Senate, but I think the list below of those received by the House (which is probably not complete) should be more than enough to show just how many Americans, and American religious organizations, viewed both military and congressional chaplains as a violation of the Constitution over a century and a half ago, blowing out of the water any assertion that the constitutional questionability of government paid chaplains is some new notion conjured up by a few modern-day atheists.

February 22, 1849 -- By Mr. John R. J. Daniel: The memorial of American citizens, praying for the repeal of all laws or provisions whereby chaplains to Congress for the army and navy, or other public stations, are employed by the government to exercise their religious functions, and whereby religious schools among the Indians are established, and religious teachers employed therein, at the expense of the government.

January 3, 1850 -- Mr. Turney presented a petition of citizens of Tennessee, praying that the appointment of chaplains in the public service may be discontinued.

January 3, 1850 -- Mr. Bradbury presented a petition of citizens of Maine, praying that the appointment of chaplains in the public service may be discontinued, and that Congress will refrain from all legislation on religions subjects.

January 9, 1850 -- By Mr. Parker: The petition of citizens of the State of Virginia, praying for the abolition of the office of chaplaincy wherever it exists by authority of Congress.

January 12, 1850 -- By Mr. Otis: The petition of citizens of the State of Maine, praying for the discontinuance of chaplains in Congress.

January 16, 1850 -- By Mr. Rumsey: The petition of citizens of the State of New York, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by the general government.

January 17, 1850 -- By Mr. McGaughey: Two memorials of citizens of the State of Indiana, praying for the abolition of the employment of chaplains in all branches of the general government.

January 18, 1850 -- By Mr. Wellborn: The memorial of citizens of the State of Georgia, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the service of the United States.

January 19, 1850 -- By Mr. Job Mann: The petition of citizens of Bedford county, in the State of Pennsylvania, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress.

January 21, 1850 -- By Mr. Young: The petition of citizens of the State of Illinois, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress.

January 22, 1850 -- By Mr. Robinson: The petition of citizens of Franklin county, in the State of Indiana, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress.

January 23, 1850 -- By Mr. Harlan: Two petitions of citizens of the State of Indiana, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress.

January 28, 1850 -- By Mr. McDowell: The memorial of citizens of the State of Virginia, praying for the abolition of the office of chaplaincy of Congress; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

January 28, 1850 -- By Mr. Daniel: ...Also, the memorial of citizens of the State of North Carolina, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

January 28, 1850 -- By Mr. Stanly: The memorial of citizens of Hyde county, in the State of North Carolina, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

January 28, 1850 -- By Mr. Owen: The memorial of citizens of Talbot, in the State of Georgia, remonstrating against the appropriation of the public funds to pay chaplains for Congress and for the military and navy service; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

January 28, 1850 -- By Mr. Albertson: The memorial of citizens of Perry county, in the State of Indiana, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by Congress; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

January 30, 1850 -- By Mr. Julian: ...Also, three memorials of citizens of Wayne, Henry, and Fayette counties, in the State of Indiana, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

January 31, 1850 -- By Mr. Hall: The memorial of citizens of the State of Missouri, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

February 4, 1850 -- By Mr. Nathan Evans: The petition of citizens of Muskingum county, in the State of Ohio, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States; which was ordered to lie on the table.

February 7, 1850 -- By Mr. Thomas L. Harris: The memorial of citizens of the State of Illinois, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

February 7, 1850 -- By Mr. Thaddeus Stevens: The memorial of citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States; which was ordered to lie on the table.

February 8, 1850 -- By Mr. Sweetser: The petition of citizens of Union county, in the State of Ohio, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the service of the United States.

February 12, 1850 -- By Mr. Thomas L. Harris: The petition of citizens of the State of Illinois, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service.

February 14, 1850 -- By Mr. Richardson: The petition of citizens of Schuyler and Brown counties, in the State of Illinois, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

February 15, 1850 -- By Mr. Wilmot: The petition of citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

February 18, 1850 -- By Mr. Beale: The petition of citizens of the State of Virginia, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

February 20, 1850 -- By Mr. Stanly: The petition of citizens of the State of North Carolina, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

February 25, 1850 -- By Mr. Schenck: The petition of citizens of the State of Ohio, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

March 6, 1850 -- By Mr. McDonald: The memorial of citizens of the State of Indiana, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

March 8, 1850 -- By Mr. Hammond: The petition of citizens of the State of Maryland, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

March 11, 1850 -- By Mr. Hackett: The petition of citizens of the State of Georgia, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

March 12, 1850 -- By Mr. Featherston: The petition of citizens of the State of Mississippi, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

March 13, 1850 -- By Mr. Robinson: The petition of citizens of the State of Indiana, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the public service of the United States.

December 9, 1850 -- By Mr. Clingman: The petition of citizens of Rutherford and Cleveland counties, in the State of North Carolina, praying for the abolition of the office of Chaplain to Congress; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

December 8, 1851 -- Mr. Underwood presented a petition of citizens of New Jersey, two petitions of citizens of Delaware, a petition and a memorial of citizens of Missouri, the memorial of citizens of Vermont, a petition of citizens of Indiana, two memorials of citizens of Illinois, and two memorials of citizens of Pennsylvania, praying that the office of Chaplain, in the public: service, may be abolished.

December 10, 1851 -- Mr. Ficklin presented the petition of Resin C. Martin and eighty-seven other persons, citizens of Illinois, protesting against the employment of chaplains by Congress at the expense of the Government, on constitutional grounds.

December 10, 1851 -- Mr. Venable presented the petition of sundry citizens of North Carolina, praying for the immediate abolition of the office of national chaplain in Congress, in the army and navy, and elsewhere.

February 5, 1852 -- By Mr. David J. Bailey: The petition of citizens of Wilkinson, in the State of Georgia, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains to Congress.

February 5, 1852 -- By Mr. Andrew Parker:The petition of citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, praying for the abolition of the whole system of national chaplaincy.

March 6, 1852 -- By Mr. Abercrombie: The petition of citizens of the State of Alabama, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains to Congress.

May 10, 1852 -- By Mr. Beale: The petition of citizens of Kanawha county, in the State of Virginia, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains to Congress; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

December 14, 1852 -- By Mr. Cleveland; The petition of citizens of the State of Connecticut, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains;

December 17, 1852 -- By Mr. George W. Jones: Sixteen petitions of citizens of the State of Tennessee, praying for the repeal of all laws authorizing chaplains in the United States.

December 20, 1852 -- By Mr. Grow: Thirteen petitions of citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains by the United States; which were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

December 21, 1852 -- By Mr. Green: Three petitions of citizens of the State of Ohio, remonstrating against the employment of United States chaplains.

December 22, 1852 -- Mr. Venable presented the petition of sundry citizens of North Carolina, against the appointment of chaplains for Congress and in the army and navy of the United States; which was referred to the Committee on the judiciary.

December 22, 1852 -- Mr. Henn presented sundry petitions of citizens of Iowa and Illinois, asking that the office of chaplain may be abolished; which were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

December 27, 1852 -- By Mr. Venable: Three petitions of citizens of the State of North Carolina, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains; which were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

May 1, 1854 -- By Mr. Lyon: The petition of citizens of Lewis county, New York, against the employment of government chaplains;

April 20, 1854 -- By Mr. George W. Jones: Two petitions of citizens of the State of Tennessee, against the employment of chaplains in Congress, the army and navy.

March 21, 1854 -- By Mr. Bugg: The petition of citizens of the State of Tennessee, for the abolition of the office of chaplains to Congress, the army and navy; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

March 21, 1854 -- By Mr. Chastain: The petition of citizens of the State of Georgia, remonstrating against the appointment of chaplains in the army, navy, &c.; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

March 21, 1854 -- Mr. John G. Davis presented the petitions of Morris F. Hedges, and four hundred and sixty-eight others; of John Canine, and one hundred and twenty-five others; and of Yancey Lam, and ninety-seven others, citizens of Indiana, praying that the office of chaplain may be abolished wherever it exists by the authority of Congress.

December 23, 1856 -- By Mr. John V. Wright: The memorial of citizens of Tennessee, protesting against the appointment of chaplains under the government; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

December 17, 1857 -- Mr. Stuart presented a petition of citizens of Michigan, praying the abolition of the office of chaplain in the public service.

January 4, 1858 -- By Mr. Isaac N. Morris: The petition of citizens of Brown county, in the State of Illinois, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the army and navy, and elsewhere; which was laid on the table.

January 6, 1858 -- By Mr. Barksdale: The petition of citizens of Mississippi, remonstrating against the employment of chaplains in the navy and army.

December 21, 1858 -- By Mr. George W. Jones: Two memorials of citizens of the State of Texas, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the petition of citizens of the State of Tennessee, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the petition of citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, two memorials of citizens of the State of Ohio, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, two memorials of citizens of the State of New York, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, three petitions of citizens of the State of Kentucky, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the petition of citizens of the State of New Jersey, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, four memorials of citizens of the State of Missouri, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the petition of citizens of the State of Massachusetts, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the petition of citizens of the State of Alabama, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, two memorials of citizens of the State of Illinois, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the memorial of citizens of the State of Arkansas, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the memorial of citizens of the State of Iowa, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, three petitions of citizens of the State of Indiana, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

December 21, 1858 -- Also, the petition of citizens of the State of Florida, praying for the abolition of chaplains in the army and navy;

January 27, 1859 -- Mr. Chandler presented a memorial of citizens of Michigan, in relation to the appointment of chaplains in the public service; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

February 7, 1859 -- By Mr. Pike: The memorial of the New Hampshire Baptist State Convention, relative to the employment of chaplains in the army and navy of the United States.

February 7, 1859 -- By Mr. Leach: The petition of citizens of the State of Michigan, relative to the employment of chaplains in the army and navy of the United States.

February 28, 1859 -- By Mr. Adrain: The petition of the committee of the New Jersey Baptist State Convention, complaining of the appointment of chaplains in the navy of the United States;

Like the history revisionists of today, a nineteenth century history revisionist, B.F. Morris, attempted to minimize this battle, claiming that "a very small portion of the American people" wanted these establishments abolished, a clearly ridiculous claim when you look at the number of petitions, many of which were signed by hundreds of citizens and church members. The following was how Morris, in his 1864 book, Christian life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, introduced the 1853 and 1854 reports of Senator Badger and Congressman Meacham, which he included in their entirety.

"At different times within the last twenty years a very small portion of the American people have petitioned Congress to abolish the office of chaplain. The petitions were respectfully received, and referred to the Committees on the judiciary, in both Houses of Congress, who made very able reports against granting the request of the petitioners. The doctrines of these reports are in harmony with the entire Christian policy of the Government, and are official records to prove that the Christian religion is the basis of the civil institutions of the United States."(13)

Needles to say, B.F. Morris's book is a very popular source for the Christian nationalist history revisionists -- including Randy Forbes, who cites it three times in the footnotes of H. Res. 888.

Recently, Morris's book was reprinted by Gary DeMar's American Vision Press, and is being advertised on websites like WorldNetDaily.com with headlines like "ACLU panics over reprint of 140-year-old book! Amazing volume conclusively documents America's Christian foundation." According to DeMar's hype, just the sight of this book, which contains nothing but earlier versions of the same lies found in the books of David Barton and the rest of today's revisionists, threw an ACLU attorney he was debating on a radio show into a panic.


1. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, vol. 50, 35th Cong., 2nd Sess., (Washington: William A. Harris, 1858-59), 53.
2. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, vol. 55, 35th Cong., 2nd Sess., (Washington: James B. Steedman, 1858), 178.
3. George P. Sanger, ed., The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America, vol. 12, 36th Cong., 2nd Sess., (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1863), 24.
4. ibid., 37th Cong., 1st Sess., 288.
5. ibid., 270.
6. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 5, 25th Cong., 2nd Sess., (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), 259.
7. George P. Sanger, ed., The Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America, vol. 12, 37th Cong., 2nd Sess., (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1863), 595.
8. The Congressional Globe, 30th Cong., 2nd Sess., December 13, 1848, 21.
9. Rev. W.A. Scott, D.D., The Bible and Politics: Or, An Humble Plea for Equal, Perfect, Absolute Religious Freedom, and Against All Sectarianism in Our Public Schools, (San Francisco: H.H. Bancroft & Co., 1859), 76-78.
10. Rev. William L. Harris, ed., Journal of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Held in Chicago, Ill., 1868, (New York: Carlton & Lanahan, 1868), 630-632.
11. Richard Peters, ed., Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 2, (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 45.
12. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, vol. 54, 35th Cong., 1st Sess., (Washington: James B. Steedman, 1857 [sic]), 792.
13. B.F. Morris, Christian life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic, (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), 316.

Previous posts on House Resolution 888:

Think the "Christmas Resolution" was Bad? Check Out H. Res. 888 - 1/4/08
More Reasons To Fight H. Res. 888 - 1/18/08
Congressman Randy Forbes -- David Barton's "Hero" - 2/6/08
Borat "Star" Co-Sponsors House Resolution 888 - 2/14/08
Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen? -- Another Lie from H. Res. 888 - 2/21/08
H. Res. 888 -- It's Got Lots of Footnotes! - 2/24/08
35% of House Republicans Support Christian Nationalist History Revisionism - 2/26/08
Ron Paul co-sponsors H. Res. 888 - 2/28/08




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