The copper-green dome of the Chapel towers over the other buildings in the Yard at the Naval Academy and, in a sense, serves as a symbol of the academy to the outside world. This is more than a coincidence. Over the decades of our history, fighting Americans have learned by experience that there is a dimension to military leadership – both in and out of combat – that is essential to real effectiveness. This is the spiritual factor, the intangible quality we call moral courage. It is this aspect of the academy’s mission that the Religious Ministries Program strives to fulfill: to foster spiritual fitness and promote the moral development of the midshipmen within the tenets of an individual’s personal faith or belief. The Chaplain Center serves the religious and spiritual needs of the brigade by ministering to the midshipmen through pastoral care, spiritual and religious mentoring, ritual and sacramental obligations and by providing pastoral care for all, regardless of their faith background.
The academy embraces freedom of religion in all that we do. This means allowing our midshipmen to worship or not as they desire while placing no requirements on midshipmen to embrace specific beliefs or participate in specific religious events. At the same time we provide support for a wide variety of religious beliefs so those midshipmen who desire to worship are free and able to do so for their own personal moral development.
While attendance at religious services is voluntary, midshipmen are reminded that as officers of the naval service, their personal beliefs will often be tested, and that in time of stress their subordinates will look to them for spiritual, as well as professional guidance. The Naval Academy has long believed that future officers owe it to themselves and to those they will lead to gain insights into moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of military leadership. Further, we want to make sure our midshipmen understand the responsibilities they will have as officers in ensuring religious support for their Sailors and Marines no matter the nature of their beliefs. Not only do we want our midshipmen and young officers to respect the beliefs and practices of those who follow a different religion or hold beliefs different from their own, we want them to understand and embrace their need as officers to ensure their Sailors and Marines can attend services and receive religious support aboard ship or on the battlefield. From the first day of Plebe Summer until the day of commissioning four years later, the academy’s chaplains serve and minister to the spiritual needs of the Brigade of Midshipmen. Chaplains are actively involved in a host of Brigade activities, provide personal counseling, ranging from faith-centered issues through crises of life and death, to future marriage plans.