Today is the 234th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps. To the left is pictured the Chaplains Corps regimental crest. The Latin words Pro Deo et Patria mean For God and Country.
How do we date the anniversary? The Continental Congress voted on July 29, 1775 to pay chaplains $20 per month, the same rate of pay as a captain. One year later, George Washington issued this General Order:
New York, July 9th, 1776
The Honorable Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-Three Dollars and one third dollars pr month – The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives – To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger -The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.
One of the first acts of Congress in June, 1775 was to pass Articles of War, the forerunner to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 2 was “Go to church and treat it with respect.”
Art. II. It is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers, diligently to attend Divine Service; and all officers and soldiers who shall behave indecently or irreverently at any place of Divine Worship, shall, if commissioned officers, be brought before a court-martial. there to be publicly and severely reprimanded by the President; if non-commissioned officers or soldiers, every person so offending, shall, for his first offence, forfeit One Sixth of a Dollar, to be deducted out of his next pay; for the second offence, he shall not only forfeit a like sum, but be confined for twenty-four hours, and for every like offence, shall suffer and pay in like manner; which money so forfeited, shall be applied to the use of the sick soldiers of the troop or company to which the offender belongs.
Article 3 was “no cussing.”
Art. III. Whatsoever non-commissioned officer or soldier shall use any profane oath or a execration, shall incur the penalties expressed in the second article; and if a commissioned officer be thus guilty of profane cursing or swearing, he shall forfeit and pay for each and every such offence, the sum of Four Shillings, lawful money.
All of this seems quite quaint, now, but it is part of our heritage as a nation. Today, men and women of the Chaplains Corps (both officer and enlisted) are still present with Soldiers in both peace and war – working together to provide for the free exercise of religion for all – offering hope, healing and direction from the chaplains’ various religious traditions – and reminding Soldiers and their leaders of our shared national commitment to moral integrity and accountability even in the midst of mortal combat.
Happy birthday Chaplains Corps.