(LifeSiteNews) — Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) gave their exclusive reactions to LifeSiteNews this week after being told they shouldn’t call upon God during public prayers in order to prioritize inclusivity and “diversity” just weeks before the national November 11 Remembrance Day holiday. The Minister of National Defence has stated that public prayer must “reflect the spiritual and religious diversity of Canadians.”
In exclusive phone interviews with LifeSiteNews, CAF members who are known to LifeSite but have asked to remain anonymous spoke out against what they see as an increased secularization of the military.
“In a nutshell, this change is: Abolish God from the public square,” one military member said, explaining that the “ethos undergirding the document” is one emphasizing the “spiritual” rather than the “religious.”
“Freedom of religion, I’m afraid, is slowly being replaced by freedom from religion,” another CAF member told LifeSite.
Their remarks pertain to an October 11 memo signed by Chaplain General Guy Belisle and obtained by The Epoch Times that directed Canadian chaplains to “adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach when publicly addressing military members.”
“While the dimension of prayer may occupy a significant place for some of our members, we do not all pray in the same way; for some, prayer does not play a role in their lives,” the memo reads.
Any “spiritual reflection” offered by military chaplains in a public setting (not including church services or private interactions with members) must be “inclusive in nature, and respectful of the religious and spiritual diversity of Canada,” according to the directive.
Spiritual leaders are also directed to “consider the potential that some items or symbols may cause discomfort or traumatic feelings when choosing the dress they wear during public occasions.”
Minister of National Defence Bill Blair responded to news concerning the directive by emphasizing that “Canadian Forces chaplains are not – and will not be – banned from prayer on Remembrance Day, nor at any other time,” The Post Millennial reported.
However, Department of National Defence spokesman said that chaplains giving reflections in public, mandatory military ceremonies “should not use the word ‘God’ or other references to a higher power such as ‘Heavenly Father’” in order “ to ensure that all feel included and able to participate in reflection no matter their beliefs.”
Active-duty CAF members who spoke with LifeSiteNews say the new directive effectively bans theistic prayer and sets up secularism as the only acceptable religion.
One military member told LifeSite that chaplains had been allowed to call upon a theistic God in an “inclusive” manner at public events like mess dinners and the celebration of Remembrance Day under prior guidance, but under the new directive “God can’t be invoked.”
He said military chaplains are further directed to be “mindful of the Gender Based Analysis (GBA+)” in their reflections, going on to explain that GBA+ is an “analysis framework that [officials are] using to basically re-examine their policies throughout the organization” for the purposes of advancing equity within the context of gender ideology.
Under the principles, the source told LifeSite, it could even be “problematic to say ‘God’ in the masculine, like in the ‘Our Father.’”
Another CAF member told LifeSite that the new memo has made military chaplains “so afraid of saying something wrong” that “even very liberal chaplains” are “too afraid” to write their “own reflection on Remembrance Day.”
He said the authentic variety of religious beliefs – in which Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others are able to express and share their faiths – is being exchanged for secular uniformity packaged as “diversity.”
The source told LifeSite that the recent chaplaincy directive amounts to “a purging of all traditional values” and a message that “the only acceptable religion now will be secularism.”
“If we can’t even live according to our conscience, if you can’t speak truth as we see it, then we’ve lost the essence of what it means to be the military,” he said. “We’ve lost our freedom.”
The first CAF member to speak with LifeSite explained that the new directive rests on the Canadian Supreme Court’s 2015 decision Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay (City), which declared that “The state must instead remain neutral” in matters “religion and beliefs.”
However, he argued that neutrality shouldn’t mean banning specific religious expressions and noted that soldiers going into battle face an entirely different set of risks than ordinary government employees, up to and including serious injury and death.
“Given the realities of soldiering and everything that comes with that, I would ask, has that not changed the equation? Does that not change things?” he said. He argued that soldiers having “spiritual tools at their disposal,” including prayers and blessings, makes the CAF “more resilient, more capable, more spiritually healthy.”
“By taking that away from people, do you have the soldier’s best interests in mind? Do you have spiritual fitness in mind? Are you playing politics? That’s my question,” he said.