UPON the subject of chaplains in the army, General Schofield says:—
Under the conditions now existing a corps of chaplains belonging to many diverse denominations would be like a medical corps, or an engineer corps, composed of the adherents to as many diverse theories on the science of medicine or of engineering. In all other things the War Department prescribes an exact code by which all in the army are to be instructed and governed; but in religion and in morals it must allow to all in the army the freedom guaranteed by the fundamental principles of our Government. There is, therefore, very little field for the performance of official religious services in the army, and great danger of doing more harm than good by any attempt to exercise military control or influence over religious matters. My impression is that the best policy would be to leave the various garrisons in the army free to select religious ministers of their choice, as other communities in this country do, the action of Congress to be limited to supplying the necessary money to pay for their services, and that of the War Department to regulating the mode of their election. In this manner a large proportion of the troops, if not all, could have the services of their own faith at least a part of the time, which they do not now.
From personal experience we know, not only that there is very little field for the performance of official religious services in the army, but that there is a good deal less performance in this than the size of the field allows; but the General’s proposal to have Congress pay for the services of those whom the army might choose, and the War Department to regulate the mode of their election, would leave the question just about as it is now. It certainly would not better the matter any. The only right thing to do is for Congress to abolish all chaplaincies. If this were done the army and the navy would receive much better attention religiously than they possibly can under any system of chaplaincies. The chaplains there are there do the men no good, and they prevent others from doing them any good. If this system were abolished, as it ought to be, then the soldiers and the marines would be visited by those who are really interested in their welfare, and who would do this work because they were interested in it. In this way many times more good would come to the army and navy than can ever possibly come from any system of chaplaincies that could be arranged.