Chaplain's Handbook and Historical References

The following was posted in Pagan Forum, used by permission of the author. Copyright belongs to the original author.
Message: 4
   Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 10:57:18 -0500
   From: "Dr. David Oringderff" <>
Subject: Chaplain's Handbook and Historical References

Merry Meet,

Just a brief note before I get the to crux of this post.  For a well researched, well documented account of contemporary paganism, I would recommend _The Triumph of the Moon_ by Ronald Hutton, published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-820744-1.  Hutton is a tenured professor of history at Bristol University.  The book is written in an academic style, difficult to read, and contains more proofing errors (spelling, grammar and syntax) than is customary for an Oxford imprint.  Nevertheless, Prof Hutton does an outstanding job of documenting the resurgence of modern pagan witchcraft, and convincingly debunks a lot of popular myths surrounding our faith, history and practices.

It seems the topic of the "Chaplain's Handbook" surfaces frequently in pagan circles, so perhaps its time to look at it again on this forum.  I have responded to Debbie privately, provided her with a copy of the current reference material, and pointed her to the CGSC website where an electronic version of the document should still be available for public access and download.  There is other information about this handbook that should be< noted, however, and I will basically copy the response sent privately to Debbie: ==================================
Merry Meet.  I have seen your request on a couple of lists, and it has also been forwarded to me by several individuals.  Since you didn't mention the focus of the library, I am assuming it is pagan-oriented.  I am attaching a copy of Overview and Guide for Wiccans in the Military, 3rd edition, which is the reference document currently used by the DoD Armed Forces Chaplains Board (AFCB) concerning matters involving the practice of Wicca by military members.

This copyright of this edition provides for limited reproduction and distribution for non-commercial purposes.  (It is not for sale, but any small donation would be appreciated as it was an expensive matter to put together and publish).  The document that you inquired about is available (or was available as of two or three months ago)  in electronic format from the Army Command and General Staff College website at Fort Leavenworth, KS.  I do not have the URL handy, but the URL is cited in the Overview that I have attached. 

Again, since I do not know the background or basis for your request, perhaps I should provide a little infomation about the Chaplain's Handbook, its history and utility (there is more on this excerpted from the Handbook itself that appears in the Overview).  First of all, the original publication was compiled under contract from the Army by Rev Dr. J. Gordon Melton and Dr. James Lewis of the American Academy of Religions.   It was first published in 1978 and updated in 1990.  It is currently out of print and will not be updated again.  The primary difference (concerning the entries on Wicca) between the versions is that the 1978 version has only one reference to Wicca, and the 1990 version contains the original reference, plus a separate entry on Gardnerian Wicca. 

The purpose of the Handbook was soley informational for chaplains and commanders to allow them to better understand and accommodate the diversity of faith groups serving in the military.  The popular misconception is that the Handbook recognizes as legitimate and authorizes the practice of these faith groups on military installations.  The reality is that this pamphlet was in no way statutory or regulatory.  The military does not "recognize" or "authorize" any religion.  For it to do so would be a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.  What the military does recognize and promote is the right of every individual member to follow his or her own chosen spiritual path. 

Since the chaplain, regardless of his or her particular faith, is responsible for pastoral supervision of ALL authorized persons within his or her area of responsibility, information about non-mainstream spiritual practices was essential.  So the Army went to a non-sectarian research group and requested that they compile a handbook to provide such information to Army Chaplains.  The problem was that there were over 7 broad categories of religious practices addressed (from Native American to fringe Christian to Eastern paths), with over fifty separate encyclopedic entries.

Many of the groups listed in the pamphlet strongly objected to being listed in the same "official document" with other groups whom they considered "heretical." Hence, after the 1990 update, the Army decided to let the pamphlet drift into obsolesence with no futher adieu.

This, of course, left a vacuum and created a problem for many chaplains struggling to fairly accommodate distinctive faith groups.  For the last couple of years, Wicca has been one of the most visible of the distinctive faith groups with which military chaplains have been concerned, and substantiative information regarding it has been painfully lacking.  With the demise of the Chaplain's Handbook, there was really no place for the military chaplain to turn.  At the suggestion of the Executive Director of the AFCB,  Rev. S. Drake Fey and I put together the Overview and Guide, and subsequent editions. 

At the request of the AFCB, we made the 3rd and latest edition available for free reproduction and distribution for educational and non-commercial purposes. While this pamphlet is not an "official" publication, it is the reference to which military chaplains are directed when they make inquires to the AFCB for information about Wicca. 

Hope this helps.  If you have further questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Aman Nai

David L. Oringderff, Ph.D.
Executive Director,
Sacred Well Congregation
PO Box 58
Converse, TX 78109
fax:  210-659-2384   
[NOTE: The Overview and Guide for Wiccans in the Military IS available on this site. Get it here. A.Lizard]

The _Overview and Guide for Wiccans in the Military_ is not yet available on our website (still under construction) but we will send a PDF copy privately to anyone who is interested.  Please send the request to:
Love is the Law and Love is the Bond
Aman Nai
Taniquetil and Itarilde
        The Sacred Well Congregation    
     \/ PO Box 58, Converse, Texas 78109