By Mathew Goldstein
Government chaplains are justifiable as an accommodation of free exercise of religion when the government makes it difficult or impossible to seek out private ministries, as may be the case for some prisoners and military personnel. Maryland hires religious prison chaplains and pays them a salary. Law enforcement and emergency services employees have the same access to private ministries as most citizens. Yet Maryland state, county, and municipal governments also allows law enforcement and various emergency services departments to hire, equip, and reimburse non-salaried, volunteer, religious chaplains. A few examples are shown below.
Candidate Prerequisites are:
Ecclesiastically certified, and a licensed or ordained clergy, imam, priest or rabbi in good standing, and endorsed in writing from their ecclesiastical authority to serve as a law enforcement chaplain
Actively engaged in ministry, this may include retired clergy capable of fulfilling the duties of a police chaplain
Able to provide documentation supporting a minimum of five years active in ministry service
C. A Police Chaplain must be ordained, invested, or a certified member of the clergy in good standing of a recognized religious ecclesiastical denomination with at least five (5) years of full-time experience in the ministry.
D. A Police Chaplain must submit an endorsement from their denomination allowing for participation in the program. This endorsement will be submitted on a bi-yearly basis.
F. It is preferred that a Police Chaplain reside in Montgomery County or be associated or affiliated with a religious institution in Montgomery County. On a case by case basis, the Chief of Police or their designee may allow a chaplain not residing in or having an affiliation with a religious institution in Montgomery County to be a member of the program.
Director, Personnel Section
1. Ensure Police Chaplain applicants meet the following minimum eligibility requirements:
1.1. Licensed or ordained, practicing member of the clergy in good standing with a recognized religious organization.
1.2. Positively recommended by an appropriate authority within the individual’s respective denomination, such as a Bishop, District Superintendent, Head of Convention, etc.
1.5. Minimum of five years’ ministry experience.
IV. CHAPLAIN QUALIFICATIONS
A. Must be a licensed or ordained minister of their faith;
Chaplains are trained to view the world and its problems through the lens of a religion and a god, a view inapposite to non-believers and believers in competing religions. About 23 percent of adult Americans, including about 35 percent of Americans under 30, are not religious. When a department hires only people who qualify on religious criteria to provide spiritual support they are falsely implying that only religious counseling is valid. Even when this is done on a volunteer basis it functions as an endorsement of religious beliefs over competing non-religious beliefs by the department.
Does your municipality or county hire volunteer chaplains? What are the qualifications for the job? A counselor’s credentials should be based on education, training, experience, and suitability for the job. Both chaplains and lay volunteers should be equally eligible for the office, uniforms, equipment, and expense reimbursements. Volunteer counselors should not be required to be affiliated with, or approved by, a religious organization. Restricting appointments to ordained clergy does not further a valid business purpose. Certification by a chaplaincy association, a theology degree, and clerical experience, should not be a requirement or an expectation. In the agency’s policies and procedures manual and the hiring announcements there should no mention of religion, spiritual guidance, God or prayer. Insignia should be generic symbols such as a shield, wreath, etc., not religious symbols. Liturgical vestments should not be worn while in uniform.
Examples of voluntary, secular, counseling service providers for emergency services support include the Trauma Intervention Program Inc. http://www.tipnational.org/ and The Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Foundation http://lecf.org/. They train citizen volunteers to respond to traumatic incidents at the request of police, fire, and hospital personnel to support those who are emotionally traumatized. Because these are secular, non-discriminatory, equal opportunity, organizations they can be government subsidized.