Army Chaplain Criticized for Fasting Call On Passover

April 7, 2009

Author: Karin Hamilton

Source: Religion News Service

The Army's top chaplain has come under fire from some Jews for issuing a call for a day of prayer and fasting that falls on the first day of Passover.

Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, a Southern Baptist and Army Chief of Chaplains, had issued the prayer call in response to the rising suicide rates among soldiers. Last year, the Army reported the highest suicide rate since record-keeping began in 1980.

"I therefore call the Chaplaincy to a Day of Prayer and Fasting, in keeping with your religious traditions, to be observed on 8 April 2009 that the united cry of our Corps will be heard and answered regarding the protection, preservation, and peace for our Soldiers and Families," Carver said in his proclamation, which was issued March 2.

Carver told Baptist Press, his denomination's official news agency, that "April 8 is a Wednesday and prayer meeting night for Southern Baptists, so we really encourage not only Baptists but all local churches to pray for the military."

As chief of chaplains, however, Carver has oversight of Army chaplains of all faiths, including Jewish rabbis.

Dozens of Jewish soldiers and chaplains have filed complaints with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group that advocates religious neutrality in the military. Mikey Weinstein, president of the group, said there has been a "tsunami" of complaints against the Day of Prayer, and believes the conflict with Passover is inexcusable.