Military prayer ban on Remembrance Day lifted amid public outcry

Chaplain General Brig.-Gen. Guy Belisle
Chaplain General Brig.-Gen. Guy BelisleCourtesy Canadian Military Family

In a significant reversal, the recent directive that prohibited military chaplains from offering prayers during November 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies has been rescinded, as confirmed in a memo from Chaplain General Brig.-Gen. Guy Belisle, obtained by the Western Standard.

The about face came after media coverage from the Western Standard's Linda Slobodian, along with the Epoch Times and LifeSite News. The story was generally ignored by the mainstream media.

This directive, which left chaplains across various faiths shocked and demoralized, was originally issued in a leaked memo on October 11. It explicitly ordered chaplains to refrain from praying or displaying religious symbols during military public ceremonies, including the solemn Remembrance Day.

The initial directive had even gone as far as threatening disciplinary action against chaplains who mentioned God or a higher power or wore religious symbols, such as Christian crosses, the Jewish star of David, or Muslim crescents, under the pretext of avoiding potential trauma to attendees.

In response to the ensuing backlash against this restriction on religious freedom, Chaplain General Guy Belisle has revised the directive to allow for "spiritual reflection" or "generic motivational ramblings" during Remembrance Day ceremonies, effectively abandoning the previous prohibition.

However, some members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) chaplaincy remain skeptical about the reversal, seeing it as an attempt to placate the public and buy time for damage control.

They have expressed concerns that the original directive was intended to be part of a broader agenda of promoting "inclusivity" while sidelining the chaplains' traditional role.

Chaplain General Belisle defended the revised directive on Monday, stating it aims to maintain an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere while honouring the diversity within the military community. He emphasized the policy is not set in stone and can be amended if necessary. To provide more clarity, he plans to form a committee to examine various questions related to the directive.

Belisle reiterated the original directive was intended to address the chaplain's role in mandatory public ceremonies, such as Remembrance Day.

The controversy over the directive's initial restrictions extended to concerns about a lack of respect for veterans, who fought for both God and country. Some chaplains expressed appreciation for the partial reversal but urged the complete removal of the policy to allow chaplains to pray according to their faith traditions.

It's worth noting while the mainstream media largely ignored this issue, outlets such as the Western Standard, The Epoch Times, and LifeSite News refused to overlook the assault on religious freedom.

The Royal Canadian Legion remains steadfast in its support for prayer during Remembrance Day ceremonies, emphasizing its importance in honoring veterans.

Religious leaders, including Roman Catholic Bishop Scott McCaig, questioned the directive's impact on diversity and its potential violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Canadian public voiced its disapproval, suggesting the outcry against the policy might be prompting this reversal. They are calling for greater protection of religious freedom and a recognition of the fundamental rights bestowed upon citizens.

Some chaplains also drew parallels with the government's handling of religious exemptions under COVID-19 vaccine mandates, citing a perceived emphasis on adhering to a 'woke agenda' rather than upholding religious freedom.

The chaplain emphasized the importance of Canadians standing up for their God-given rights and freedoms, and urged citizens not to take for granted the sacrifices made by those who fought to protect these rights on battlefields.

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