Friday, June 1, 2007

Chaplains in Minnesota - Part 2

I see that a few people are checking out the post from the "Blog Against Theocracy" about chaplains... There are a few things to correct from it.

Dan Hall is no longer the chaplain of the Minnesota State Senate. The current chaplain, (according to a January '07 Star Tribune Article) is Rev. Kevin McDonough, the vicar general of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. McDonough is also chief operating officer of the archdiocese and considered second only to Archbishop Harry Flynn. McDonough has been a frequent advocate for the church at the State Capitol.

The comment was made to the previous entry that Dan Hall received no tax money for being chaplain of the Senate, but is funded through donations. Maybe you are thinking of his role as president of Midwest Chaplains, which is a 501(c)(3). In it's 2005 tax filling (publicly available on the internet), Midwest Chaplains reported a revenue of $76,906 and it's one paid employee (Dan Hall) made $62,500. I assume he doesn't make as much, if anything, as the leader of the Bachmann Prayer Team, or any of his other ventures. His pay with Midwest Chaplains isn't an issue, I'm not donating any money to him. He can give himself a million dollars if that's what people want to give him.

The House chaplain gets $2000 per year, and $35 per prayer (visiting chaplains receive $35). I'm looking into how the Senate pays it's chaplains, but I'm sure it's a similar honorarium. The Senate chaplain makes $25 per prayer plus milage if requested. The fact that it is very hard to find out anything about the office of chaplain is disconcerting in itself. What's the job description?

Even if the position of chaplain was volunteer and there was no money used to support it whatsoever, there are still issues with government appearing to endorse one religion (Christianity, in this case).

One of the issues I had with the position of chaplain in the Legislature is that the chaplain is proselytizing to state employees (the members of the legislature); by way of the prayers at the beginning of the sessions and, as Dan Hall admits, in their offices. The current Chaplain has also expressed his interest in proselytizing to legislators. In January, McDonough told the Star Tribune...
Q: Any plans to do lobbying on the side?
A: No, this role is not related to my official role with the archdiocese. I'll only be trying to lobby the senators into heaven.
That clearly shows his intent to proselytize on the job...and this article in Politics in Minnesota [I see this link is now behind a paywall - 11/5/13] mentions the lobbying he appeared to do against the bill that would extend the civil statute of limitations for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Dan Hall and Rev. Kevin McDonough may be great guys. If they feel their calling in life is to proselytize to people, fine...they can walk down any sidewalk and do a Kirk Cameron (I hope they don't forget to bring a Banana), but when they are given an official position in the government, that creates an unnecessary relationship between government and religion.

My original question still stands. As 'awesome' as you might think it is to have a 'Chaplin'[sic] at the Capitol...can you provide any legitimate reason why there should be one other than 'historical tradition'?

Update 11/5/2013: The Star Tribune has just done an article mentioning Rev. Kevin McDonough lobbying at the capitol. When will they do an article questioning the need for chaplains altogether?


ann pattock said...

yes, a good reason for a chaplain is to remind politicians that they are not just dealing with budgets, numbers, statistics, and their decisions have an impact on people's quality of life , such as health insurance and how many will suffer without it...a chaplain brings the human aspect into the picture. and to remind us that there is something greater then just ourselves!

Cat's Staff said...

They don't seem to be doing a very good job if that is their purpose. There isn't universal health insurance, and many people are suffering. I don't see them lobbying for it. In the mean time they are costing the tax payer. In some cases they are costing the tax payer a lot. We should not have the government paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to have someone remind us there is something greater than ourselves. If we don't wish to believe that, it's our own prerogative. If someone wants to believe it, that's theirs.

No, Ann, that's not a good reason in a country that isn't a theocracy.