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Of interest to our readers will be the following correspondence concerning Sunday military training. Through the courtesy of our Stated Clerk, the Rev. G. VandenBerg, we have received copies of various replies to letters sent by our Synod of 1961 concerning this matter.

Upon overture from our Creston Consistory and from Classis East, the Synod decided to send the following letter to Major General Donald W. McGowan, Chief, National Guard; Chief of Reserve Affairs, Department of the Army (Navy, Marines, Air Corps); and Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense.

“We the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America in session June 7, 1961, at Grand Rapids, Michigan, wish to make it a matter of record that we are opposed to the policy of military training on the Sabbath Day. It is our conviction that members of our churches who are subject to military training should not be compelled to violate their convictions concerning the use of the Sabbath Day. 

“Our chief objection concerns the use of the Sabbath Day for types of training which can be easily accomplished by other means and at other times. We wish to emphasize that we are speaking of training for reservists or members of the National Guard and not for men on regular military duty. 

“We ask you to take such necessary steps as may be required to insure that military trainees do not have to be deprived of the opportunity to attend their church services and of the privilege of observing the entire Sabbath according to their Christian convictions.

“We have churches in several states in our country and the problem is causing increasing difficulty. We recognize the need for military duty on the Sabbath Day under wartime conditions, but we ask you to adopt a policy which does not require military training for reservists and National Guardsmen on the Sabbath Day.” 

A copy of the above letter was forwarded to Representative Gerald R. Ford with the following letter.

“Gerald R. Ford 

“351 House Office Building 

“Washington 25, D.C. 

“Dear Mr. Ford, “You probably recall that you received a letter dated March 20, 1961 from the Creston Protestant Reformed Church in which the Consistory asked you to take into consideration their objections to the need for Army Reserve members training on Sunday. This letter you answered by asking Creston’s Consistory to notify you if the young man in question was penalized for refusing to train on Sunday. 

“Creston’s Consistory has brought this matter to the attention of the Synod of our churches (Protestant Reformed Churches) with the request that a letter be addressed to the proper authorities to ask them to change this rule with respect to Sunday training. This the Synod has decided to do since this is a problem in other of our churches throughout the country. 

“Grateful for the kind attention you have given this matter in the past, we are asking your assistance once again. We have addressed letters, a copy which is enclosed for you, to the Chiefs of Reserve Affairs of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Corps; to the Chief of the National Guard; and to Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense. We would appreciate your help in gaining a favorable decision with regard to this matter as well as any further advice you can give us, 

“Thanking you for your kind attention in the past and for your present efforts to assist us, we remain,” 

In reply to these letters of our Synod the following letters of interest to our readers were received. We submit them for your study. 

Congress of the United States 

House of Representatives 

Washington, D.C. 

June 20, 1961 

Rev. Gerald Vanden Berg 

Synodical Stated Clerk 

Protestant Reformed Churches of America 

9402 South 53rd Court 

Oak Lawn, Illinois 

Dear Rev. Vanden Berg, 

Thank you for your letter of June 12th enclosing a copy of the resolution adopted by the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America concerning military training on the Sabbath Day. 

I am pleased to know that you have sent copies of this statement to the Secretary of Defense and to those who administer our Reserve and National Guard program. 

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, the Honorable Carlisle P. Runge, has overall supervision of the training policies involving military forces. I have, therefore, written Secretary Runge enclosing a copy of your resolution and asking that as the representative of the Secretary of Defense he do everything possible to carry out the request of your resolution which I personally endorse. Enclosed is a copy of my letter to the Secretary. 

Kindest personal regards, 

Sincerely, 

Gerald R. Ford, Jr., M.C. 

June 20, 1961 

The Honorable Carlisle P. Runge 

Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower) 

Washington, D.C. 

Dear Mr. Secretary, 

Enclosed is a copy of a resolution adopted by the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America and signed by Rev. G. Vanden Berg, the Synodical Stated Clerk. 

A copy of this statement by the Synod has been sent to the Secretary of Defense and other offices of the various services charged with administering the Reserve program. 

A large number of sincere and conscientious citizens in my congressional district as well as in the other parts of the country are deeply concerned with any requirement that men be required to carry on military training on the Sabbath in violation of their conscientious objections to unnecessary work on that day. 

I have discussed this matter on many occasions with officials in the Department of Defense and with officials in the Michigan National Guard. 

You will note from the enclosed resolution that the Church has not objected to necessary work by regular members of the Armed Forces on the Sabbath. Neither does the Church object to necessary work on the Sabbath in time of a national emergency. But it does raise objections to compelling sincere Christian citizens to violate their religious convictions unnecessarily and without compelling cause. 

I personally share the view outlined in the enclosed statement and would urge that the position presented be taken into consideration in the establishment of any policy concerning the training of our reserve forces. 

Warmest personal regards. 

Sincerely, 

Gerald R. Ford, Jr., M.C. 

Congress of the United States 

House of Representatives 

Washington, D.C. 

June 28, 1961 

The Reverend Gerald Vanden Berg 

Synodical Stated Clerk 

Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches 

9402 South 53rd Court, Oak Lawn, Illinois 

Dear Rev. Vanden Berg: 

Enclosed is a copy of a report I have just received from the Assistant Secretary of Defense concerning Sunday drilling by reserve forces. The Secretary sent me a copy of the letter which is addressed to you by Chaplain Clark on June 16. 

I feel that neither of these letters get to the crux of the matter which both you and I attempted to point out to defense authorities. I do hope, however, that the protest lodged by the Protestant Reformed Churches of America and others will have the effect of cutting down the number of drills scheduled for Sundays. I trust that eventually the Department of Defense, which is under the Executive Branch of the Government, will be able to revise its policies in this regard. 

Sincerely, 

Gerald R. Ford, Jr., M.C. 

Assistant Secretary of Defense 

Washington 25, D.C. 

June 27,196l 

MANPOWER 

Dear Mr. Ford: 

This is in reply to your letter of June 20, 1961 forwarding a copy of a resolution adopted by the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America pertaining to the conducting of Reserve training on Sunday. The resolution has been received in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and was answered on June 16 by Chaplain, Colonel, William L. Clark, Executive Director, Armed Forces Chaplains Board. 

The effectiveness of our reserve components is best measured by their readiness for employment in the event of an emergency. As one means to improve this readiness, our efforts for the past few years have been concentrated on unit training rather than basic individual training. This has equal application to the reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Realistic and effective unit training requires time and space that is not available in a two-hour drill period at night in an armory. Excellent training is accomplished, however by consolidating four armory drills into a training exercise of 48 hours or more. In view of the fact that our reservists are civilians and must earn their livelihood in civilian occupations, it is not feasible to conduct these consolidated drills during the middle of the week, and, instead, such exercises are conducted on weekends. 

As pointed out in Chaplain Clark’s reply to Reverend Vanden Berg, a copy of which is attached, these exercises do not exceed an average of one weekend per month. In keeping with the long established practice of the armed forces, military personnel even when engaged in intensive training are habitually given the opportunity to attend church services of their choice. In the case of the reserves, many units have their own chaplains who conduct religious services during periods of field training. In the event chaplains are not available, reserve commanders are authorized and encouraged to make it possible for their personnel to attend nearby civilian churches. 

The feeling of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America is appreciated. However, in consideration of the contribution of weekend training periods to the readiness of the Reserve forces, we feel that the continuation of this type of training program is in the best interest of the Nation. 

With best wishes. 

Sincerely yours, 

Carlisle P. Runge 

Department of Defense 

Armed Forces Chaplains Board 

Washington 25, D.C. 

The Reverend Gerald Vanden Berg 

Synodical Stated Clerk 

Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches 

9402 South 53rd Court 

Oak Lawn, Illinois 

Dear Rev. Vanden Berg 

Your letter to the Office of the Secretary of Defense relative to military training on the Sabbath Day has been referred to this office for reply. 

Every effort is being made by the Department of Defense to maintain an effective National Guard and reserve program and at the same time to preserve the religious traditions of our nation. Due to continuing advances in modem warfare techniques, constant emphasis must be placed upon reducing the mobilization readiness time of our reserve forces. National Guard and reserve units must be ready for immediate mobilization or they will be of no value to the defense of our nation. 

Classroom training periods, normally held at night, are effective only in presenting theory; longer periods are required for the practical application. Since most reservists are dependent upon their civilian occupations for their bread and butter, they are not available for longer training periods at any other time than weekends. 

Maximum participation of reservists will not exceed an average of one weekend per month. To compensate for this, chaplains when available are assigned to units to provide adequate worship services at the training site. When chaplains, are not available, commanders have authority to authorize personnel to attend nearby churches for worship. 

National Guard and reserve programs as they are now organized are popular with most reservists. The present system allows them to maintain their affiliation without jeopardizing their civilian occupations. It is felt that a reorganization of the program to eliminate weekend training periods would reduce it to such a point of noneffectiveness that the program could not be maintained nor justified. It would also result in an undue hardship on the majority of the participants. 

Commanders of National Guard and reserve units are being encourages to give their personal attention to the establishment of adequate worship programs for their personnel.

Your interest is fully appreciated, and we hope that this reply will help you to understand our position on this matter,

Sincerely yours,

William L. Clark

Ch., Colonel, USAF

Executive Director

National Guard Bureau

June 16, 1961

The Reverend Gerald VandenBerg

Synodical Stated Clerk

Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches

9402 South 53rd Ct

Oak Lawn, Illinois

Dear Reverend VandenBerg:

This is in reply to the statement issued by members of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches in session on June 7, 1961, at Grand Rapids, Michigan, relative to the conduct of National Guard training on Sundays and their concern for the religious welfare of those involved.

The law provides that the discipline, including training, of National Guard units shall conform to that of the Army and/or Air Force, respectively, and gives the States the responsibility for conducting that training. Current training directives require a number of extended training periods (one- or two-day assemblies) for the Army National Guard. These assemblies generally held on Saturdays or Sundays, or both, are the best means of providing the additional training which is essential if the maximum mobilization readiness required of our present day forces is to be achieved. 

Recently, an article by the wife of a National Guardsman was published in a newspaper in South Carolina. It expresses with evident honesty and frankness her opinion in regard to Sunday training, and I would like to quote from it as a part of my reply to you. She was concerned about a resolution adopted at a conference of ministers. 

“I am wondering if those . . . against the Sunday drills ever voted against soldiers fighting on Sundays to protect the country in World War II and during the Korean conflict? Have they ever voted to stop all military personnel from performing any kind of work on Sunday? Would they have the entire defense of the nation come to a complete stop on Sunday? Would they cease the operation of radar scopes which would pick up signals from enemy planes, and just hope the enemy planes wouldn’t bother to come around on Sundays? Would (they) . . . have the youth of America go into battle totally unprepared as far too many of them did during World War II? . . . Did they investigate and find out that religious services are available to every Guardsman during every Sunday drill on a voluntary basis? . . . My husband has been attending Sunday National Guard drills for some eight years now. His opinion . . . is that some of the best sermons he has ever heard were the sermons at Sunday Guard drills. There are many who attend these religious services at Sunday drills who do not attend church at other times. Would (they) . . . prefer that Guardsmen attend a one-hour service at their respective churches, then spend the remainder of the day playing golf, or riding around on dangerous highways, or looking at TV shows at home? . . . I wish (they) . . . would spend at least one Sunday with a Guard unit and see not only what fine religious services they are offered, but what excellent use is made of the day to train these young men, most of whom would otherwise be idling their Sundays away on some much less worthwhile recreation. I might also mention that possibly a nice share of the money they receive for their Sunday training eventually will find its way into the collection plates of their respective churches.” 

I appreciate the concern of the members of the Synod of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches about Sunday training and hope this reply will present a point of view which heretofore may not have been considered. 

Sincerely, 

D. W. MCGOWAN 

Major General 

Chief, National Guard Bureau 

Headquarters Dep’t of the Army 

ARROTC 461.01 

June 22, 1961 

Reverend Gerald Vanden Berg 

9402 South 53rd Court 

Oak Lawn, Illinois 

Dear Reverend Vanden Berg: 

This is in reply to your recent letter in which you expressed your church’s opposition to military training for reservists and National Guardsmen on the Sabbath Day. 

The unsettled international situation which exists in the world today, has placed some rather stringent demands upon all of us. Our Armed Forces are required to be maintained in a continued state of combat readiness which will permit rapid response to any threats to our national security. Since we are maintaining minimum strengths in our regular forces, our Reserves must be maintained in a-state of mobilization readiness that will permit their rapid mobilization and deployment to augment and reinforce other Army forces. Such a situation imposes exacting training demands on the Reserve forces and requires some training beyond that which can be accomplished during the regular two-hour weekly training periods of Reserve units. Consequently, current Department of the Army training policy prescribes six multiple drills or weekend training assemblies for each United States Army Reserve unit during the training year. (Multiple drills consist of at least eight hours of training in one day, and weekend training assemblies consist of at least four hours of military training on two consecutive days of a weekend. Either of these two types of training might require reservists to train on Sunday or the Sabbath). These longer training periods are used for instruction in those military subjects which require considerable time for organization and conduct of training, such as small-unit exercises, range firing and staff training. 

Directives of the Department of the Army and subordinate headquarters prescribe that when units conduct training on Sunday or the Sabbath, unit commanders will arrange, where possible, for the conduct of appropriate worship services at the training site for members of their command who desire to attend, or excuse personnel to attend civilian church services of their faith. 

In view of the provisions to permit each individual to worship according to his own faith and the pressing requirement to keep the United States Army Reserve in a state of readiness, the Department of the Army considers that the policy discussed above will permit both the moral and spiritual development of our nation’s youth and meet the demands of national defense. Our survival is dependent upon ever ready defense forces as well as a continuing reinforcement of the moral fiber of our people. 

Your interest in this matter is fully appreciated and I trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Sincerely yours, 

JACK M. TUMLINSON 

Major, Infantry 

Executive Officer 

Department of the Navy Office of the Chief of Naval Operations 

Washington 25, D.C. 

Dear Rev. Vanden Berg: 

We, in the Navy, share your concern for the spiritual welfare of the patriotic Americans who serve in the Naval Reserve. 

Although the Navy has been very sincere in its attempt to observe the religious aspects of Sunday, it has been found, in some cases, that its members must perform military duties which may interfere with their participation in Sunday Divine services. For the active forces we have been very successful in reducing such interferences. However, some of our Reserve forces present a different problem. Our Reservists are civilians first, and military men second. Their primary responsibility, in our way of life, is to provide for their families. Those who belong to the Reserve must provide this support and in addition relinquish some off-work hours to military training. In general, the current working habits of the country require most of our Reserves at their civilian jobs during the daylight hours of the normal working week. For the majority, therefore, only the evenings and weekends remain for them to devote to military training. 

Most of our Reserve programs take advantage of the weekday evening hours; however, in some cases, Reservists, such as those in the Naval Air Reserve and the Reserve Crews for our ships, must have operational training as a team. Since most of the Naval Air Reserve and all of the ships, manned by their own Reserve Crews, are in the highly specialized business of anti-submarine warfare, their training must be done over a longer period. This period is one weekend per month plus one two-week cruise per year. All of the participants in the weekend training programs have joined them voluntarily. However, all of our Naval Air Stations have a chaplain attached and time is allocated from training for men to attend religious services. Aboard ship where there are no chaplains we have a “lay-reader” program and time and space are made available there for religious services.

I appreciate your interest in the Naval Reserve and am pleased to have had this opportunity to explain the Navy’s Reserve weekend activities through which our citizen sailors are contributing so significantly to our efforts to combat the Soviet submarine threat. 

Sincerely, 

w/s J.A. Tyree, Jr. 

Ass’t. Chief of Naval Operations 

—H.C.H.