Ex-chaplain pushes for uniform religious badges


With a cross on his lapel, it’s easy to spot a military chaplain in uniform.

But the same might not be true if the chaplain’s badge displays a prayer wheel, a crescent moon or tiny Torah scrolls.

And when the sole, newly commissioned Hindu chaplain starts wearing her symbol — which is still in the design stage — how many will recognize it as the sign of a chaplain?

Not many, said Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a retired military chaplain who served as command chaplain for the U.S. European Command.

“Military personnel will not identify symbols for chaplains if so few people wear them,” he said. “We need a universal insignia that automatically symbolizes the presence of a chaplain.“

Resnicoff welcomes the prospect of an even more diverse military chaplaincy in the future, but that’s likely to only worsen the problem of unfamiliar insignias.

His solution is a revamped chaplain’s insignia, which includes one element that is the same for all chaplains alongside a separate symbol that indicates a chaplain’s particular faith.

“A priest is still a priest. A rabbi is still a rabbi. A minister is still a minister,” Resnicoff said.

American military chaplains provide spiritual guidance to members of their own faith, those of other faiths and service members who profess no religion.

More than 400 Christian clergy, eight rabbis and several Muslim and Buddhist clergy serve as active-duty chaplains in the U.S. military.

For the universal clergy symbol, Resnicoff envisions an open book with a shepherd’s crook on one page and a faith-specific symbol on the other. Pentagon brass have endorsed the general concept.