Military Chaplain Alleges Discrimination Against Wiccan Military Chaplains

Don Larsenby Stephanie Kolcz

Don Larsen’s military chaplaincy served several thousand military servicemen and servicewomen throughout his career, allowing him to reach them through his Pentecostal faith and the endorsement of the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, a Dallas-based association of Pentecostal churches . He was praised by Chaplain Kevin L. McGhee, the head of his chaplaincy and Larsen’s supervisor, who called him the best chaplain amongst the twenty-six chaplains serving at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. McGhee continued to rain praise upon him, saying “I could go on and on about how well he preached, the care he gave.”

The purpose of military chaplains, as stated by the Air Force Chaplain Corps and echoed among the other branches of the U.S. Military, is to “offer a broadly based ministry aimed at meeting the diverse pastoral needs of the pluralistic military community.”  They are told to abide by the First Amendment by supporting the free exercise of religion, both directly and indirectly, for all members of the Military Services, their dependents, and other authorized persons.

The 22 February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, which collapsed the dome of a 1,200-year-old holy site and triggered attacks between Shiite and Sunni militants, prompted Larsen to make a decision – and a change of heart – regarding his own personal faith.

Larsen describes the transformation in him as when “I realized so many innocent people are dying in the name of God. When you think back over the Catholic-Protestant conflict, how the Jews have suffered, how some Christians justified slavery, the Crusades, and the fighting between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, I just decided I’m done.” He decided to convert from Protestant to Wicca, stating, “I will not be part of any church that unleashes its clergy to preach that particular individuals or faith groups are damned.”

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