The Enduring Role of Faith in America’s Navy

October 11, 2019
Faith in the Navy | First Liberty

by Liberty McArtor • 4 min read

In 1775, as the conflict between the American colonies and Great Britain intensified, George Washington was commissioned Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

But while Washington gathered his men to fight for independence on land, the coast remained vulnerable. The British Royal Navy, the greatest naval fleet of its time, continually posed a threat for American colonists along the Atlantic seaboard. Under the pressing need to win the war at sea, Washington wrote a letter to the Continental Congress requesting the official formation of a navy.

Since that time, the United States Navy has been irreplaceable in securing and defending our freedom. As Americans, we are forever indebted to the men and women who have selflessly served in the Navy in the centuries since Washington wrote that letter.

As we celebrate the Navy’s 244th birthday on October 13th, it’s only fitting that we recognize an integral part of the Navy—faith. Here are a few facts you must know about the role of religion and religious liberty in America’s Navy.

John Adams: First to Advocate for a Navy Chaplaincy

John Adams is often known as “The Father of the American Navy.” From the outset of armed conflict between the colonies and Great Britain, Adams was a strong advocate for an American fleet. He continued to be one of the fledgling Navy’s strongest supporters during our nation’s formative years.

Like his predecessor, Adams understood the importance of fostering spiritual fitness among all American service members. As America’s second president, he advocated for a Navy chaplaincy, writing:

“I know not whether the commanders of our ships have given much attention to this subject [of chaplains], but in my humble opinion, we shall be very unskillful politicians as well as bad Christians and unwise men if we neglect this important office in our infant navy.”

Religious Services Took Place Aboard Navy Vessels From the Start

Even before Adams’ presidency, the Continental Congress recognized the need for spiritual encouragement for our country’s naval forces.

When the Continental Navy was formed in 1775, commanders on colonial ships were required “to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays.”

Evening Prayer at Sea Continues to This Day

Although more than 200 years have passed since the Navy became a part of our military, faith remains a part of daily life aboard naval vessels. To this very day, chaplains still deliver a short prayer over the intercom. As sailors listen, they may join in the prayer, take a moment to worship according to their own faith tradition, or pause for a moment of silence.

Today, over 800 Navy Chaplains minister to service members of over 100 different religions, attesting to the important role that personal faith still plays to members of the U.S. Navy.

Learn more about the important legacy of faith in all branches of the U.S. Military by downloading this exclusive and FREE e-booklet from First Liberty’s military experts.

Download Faith and Freedom in the Military | First Liberty

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