Army investigates chaplain trading water for baptisms


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Marko Kloos
April 12, 2003, 01:28 PM
Army investigates chaplain trading water for baptisms

By TONY PUGH and KEN GARFIELD
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains is checking into a report by Knight Ridder Newspapers that an Army chaplain in Iraq withheld clean bathing water from U.S. soldiers who did not first agree to hear a sermon and be baptized.

The allegation against Chaplain Josh Llano, 32, of Houston, has drawn heated responses from religious, civil libertarian and atheist groups who say the practice amounts to religious coercion. Army officials said that so far their investigation hasn't shown that to be true.

"Neither the Army nor the Army Chief of Chaplains approves of religious coercion, but reports we've gotten indicate that's not what this was at all," said Pentagon spokesperson Martha Rudd, who added that there was plenty of additional water available to soldiers at that camp.

"We don't have any information at this time that the chaplain was coercing anyone. But we're still looking into it."

Army Chief of Chaplains Gaylord Gunhus said he believes Llano was simply joking with soldiers of the Army V Corps combat support system at Camp Bushmaster near Najaf.

"I have confidence in my chaplains," Gunhus said from his office at the Pentagon. "It had nothing to do with keeping people from having water or anything at all. Speculation is, he was jesting with a bunch of folks."

Llano, a Southern Baptist, recently told a Knight Ridder reporter that he makes soldiers sit through a 90-minute sermon and then take part in baptismal services in a 500-gallon container used only for baptisms. Rudd said many of the soldiers had gone up to 10 days without a shower.

In the story, which appeared in newspapers throughout the country, Llano said the soldiers willingly agreed to his terms. Said Llano in the story: "It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized."

Llano could not be reached for comment on Thursday. But Rudd said Llano told investigators he does not recall making those statements. She said Llano's commanders have denied the water-for-baptism allegations. Knight Ridder reporter Meg Laughlin, who wrote the original story, noted that she was not alone when Llano made the statements.

But the media accounts have set off a controversy. Military chaplains are supposed to provide services when asked - and with no conditions, said Edd Doerr, executive director of Americans for Religious Liberty, a multi-faith group in Washington that advocates for separation of church and state. Requiring soldiers to be baptized in exchange for water ignores their right to religious freedom, Doerr said.

"This guy went way overboard," Doerr said of Llano. "Chaplains have got to have an appreciation for the diverse faiths of the men they're serving."

Doerr said his group has sent a letter asking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to "do whatever it takes to get (Llano) to behave."

Llano is trying to "lure potential converts and he is preying on vulnerable, stressed-out military men and women," to do so, according to a statement by Kathleen Johnson, military director for American Atheists, a civil rights advocacy group in Parsippany, N.J.

"Pastor Llano should share water and other resources with all needy troops. He's using government resources to advance his particular religious agenda," Johnson's statement said.

Llano was an Army drill sergeant before he was ordained, and served as a military chaplain through the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. The convention has 320 military chaplains serving in the Middle East.

North American Mission Board Vice President John Yarbrough said he will wait to see what the Army finds before responding. The options include counseling Llano or revoking his endorsement to serve as a military chaplain through the Southern Baptist Convention.

While not confirming whether Llano erred, Yarbrough said: "This is very atypical of the way our chaplains would function."

Rudd said the investigation would be conducted on an informal basis and would not require input from the Army Office of Inspector General.

(Garfield reported from Charlotte, Pugh from Washington.)

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LostOneToo
April 12, 2003, 01:35 PM
Chaplain/officer/ or whatever; I'd have made the rest of his tour miserable 24/7 if I caught him with-holding water from my men.:cuss:

4v50 Gary
April 12, 2003, 02:23 PM
A holy war for the holy water. :rolleyes: Geez, the Constitution specifically states that the state shall not establish a religion.

Marko Kloos
April 12, 2003, 03:09 PM
Actually, that's not quite what the First Amendment says, Gary. It says the State may not respect an establishment of religion. It boils down to the same thing, though...the State may not favor or hinder any specific religion. Letting a State-employed chaplain use taxpayer-funded resources to try and convert folks to his religion is definitely questionable.

When church and State are mixed, it tends to degrade both.

pax
April 12, 2003, 03:35 PM
Ugly and despicable, if true.

She said Llano's commanders have denied the water-for-baptism allegations.
Something about this just hit my funny bone. What's next? A food-for-dinner allegation?

pax

What such people miscall their religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance. -- Charles Dickens, (in David Copperfield)

HerbG
April 12, 2003, 07:40 PM
I have a feeling the truth is far different from what is being reported, and the chaplain is getting a raw deal. No commander would tolerate this kind of thing for a second. In addition, nothing in S. Baptist beliefs supports coerced baptistisms.

c_yeager
April 13, 2003, 03:57 AM
How much do you want to bet that the actual story was more along the lines of; he had a certain amount of water FOR baptisms. And when the guys wanted to wash their armpits in it he refused. Not saying he is necessarily in the right. But it is a more reasonable take on the story.

MeekandMild
April 14, 2003, 01:23 AM
Lendringser, I suppose the definition of defamation is entirely dependant on who is a moderator and who is a member isn't it? :scrutiny:

ahadams
April 14, 2003, 01:33 AM
uh, guys, just so you're aware, the original article was forwarded by persons (ahem) unknown to a former military officer who is now an ordained clergyman who forwarded it to a whole bunch of other retired military officers, and my understanding is the, er, :cuss: hit the great whirling blades late last week when several of them contacted their old buddies from West Point to ask about this.

er not that I officially know any of that, mind you...and neither do you, okay? ;)

Marko Kloos
April 14, 2003, 07:59 AM
Lendringser, I suppose the definition of defamation is entirely dependant on who is a moderator and who is a member isn't it?

Care to elaborate?

MeekandMild
April 14, 2003, 07:06 PM
L, its an urban legend. You might check out www.snopes.com. Otherwise you may refer to our previous PM exchange and try not to post material denigrating others' religions in the future.

chaim
April 14, 2003, 07:19 PM
Otherwise you may...try not to post material denigrating others' religions in the future. Hmmm, how is this denegrating others' religions? According to this article one minister may have overstepped his authority (military and religious) and coerced baptisms. If he did exactly what is charged he did something that is probably against military regs and certainly against the tenents of his religion. For this, in addition to being investigated by the military, he is being investigated by his religion. So, again, how is passing this info on denegrating any religion?

As far as urban legend, not quite. It has been reported in many reputable newspapers and was witnessed (though not necessarily properly interpreted) by a reporter. It may turn out to be not quite as reported but that, by definition, is not the same thing as an urban legend (a totally unsubstantiated, and usually exaggerated, rumor).

Anyway, I don't see Lendringser doing anything wrong here.

Marko Kloos
April 14, 2003, 07:32 PM
Otherwise you may refer to our previous PM exchange and try not to post material denigrating others' religions in the future.

*chuckle*

I guess it depends on whose ox gets gored.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=15894

Anyway, I merely posted a story from a news site. I did the same with the initial story about the good chaplain. When I did that, even many Christians said that the behavior of this chaplain, if true and verified, was not in accordance with Christian theology and practices. If anyone is denigrating religion here, it's the chaplain. The fact that there's an official investigation seems to indicate that the article was not fictional.

jmbg29
April 14, 2003, 10:46 PM
If anyone is denigrating religion here, it's the chaplain.No. The chaplain is only denigrating Christianity in specific, and religion in general, if he is guilty.The fact that there's an official investigation seems to indicate that the article was not fictionalNo. The fact that there is an investigation is indicative of an allegation having been made by the reporter in her story. That there is an investigation has no bearing on whether or not her story may have been truth or fiction. With luck, the investigation will reveal the truth.

MeekandMild
April 14, 2003, 11:39 PM
I guess it depends on whose ox gets gored. Not really. I'd have the same difficulty with you posting a made-up story repeating stereotypal but "believable" stories about anyone. Think of all the false but "believable" things you have seen through the years about Germans for instance, motorcycle riders, shooters.

Sure, it was harmless, but was it really? I am making the assertion that moderators should be especially sensitive to these issues since we poor benighted members have no power to stop you from trying to impose your own beliefs and prejudices on us. :scrutiny:

BTW, contrary to popular belief it was Edison, not Ford who said all religion is bunk. Ford said HISTORY is bunk.

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