Make army chaplains secular, British officer says

The British Army would be better served by secular chaplains, a former battalion commander has claimed.

Lieutenant Colonel Laurence Quinn said while troops should be able to practice their religion, Christian prayers seem “insensitive to other belief systems”.

However, the Armed Forces’ most senior chaplain Revd Dr David Coulter said that chaplains represent the “Christian values of trust, faith and forgiveness”.

‘Ill at ease’

The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department was formed in 1796 and the Army website notes that chaplains are “honoured” to provide a variety of support including spiritual care.

But Lt Col Quinn said: “For some time I have felt ill at ease with the way religion is tied up in what we do in the Army.

“Troops should be able to practise their religion, and I think we should facilitate that, but it shouldn’t be bound up in our business.”


The officer, who has worked at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, said he came to appreciate chaplains but thinks “we would be better served by them being secular”.

Revd Dr Coulter said he had not had any demands for getting rid of chaplains from senior officers, and explained the work they do.

“In battle, soldiers may have seen or done awful things and have to wrestle their conscience.


“Padres represent the Christian values of trust, faith and forgiveness.

“Soldiers come to us seeking support and we can offer a moment of reflection to look for something beyond themselves”, he said.

SASRA – The Soldiers’ And Airman’s Scripture Readers Association – is one Christian group working with those in the armed forces.

Its patron is the Queen, and its President is the former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt.

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