In a recent poll on Navy Personnel Command’s website, 63 percent of 5,049 respondents did not believe that what they say to a chaplain is confidential, and 65 percent of 2,895 respondents believe that Navy chaplains are required to report certain matters to the command.
In light of these results and other anecdotal evidence, Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd saw an opportunity to roll out an official campaign to help educate service members, leadership and families across the Navy and Marine Corps on SECNAV Instruction 1730.9: Confidential Communications to Chaplains. This policy was established on Feb. 7, 2008 to protect the sacred trust between an individual and a chaplain.
Per Navy policy, Sailors, Marines and families have the right and privilege to confidential communication with a Navy chaplain; Chaplains have the obligation and responsibility to protect and guard the confidential communications disclosed to them; and commanders honor and support the unique, confidential relationship between an individual and a chaplain.
Chaplains cannot be compelled by the command, medical professionals or others to disclose what a service member or family member shares in confidence.
“Whether you’ve talked to me on the mess decks, in the chow hall, in my office, wherever. Whatever you tell me, I can say to no one. The bottom line is: you hold the key. What you say to us stays with us, unless you decide otherwise,” said Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben, chaplain of the Marine Corps and deputy chief of chaplains.
Chaplains serve as advocates to help individuals get the support needed to overcome the challenges they face before matters escalate. “This unique relationship between an individual and a chaplain can serve as a valuable safety valve to the commander to facilitate increased morale and mission readiness,” said Tidd.
Given the continuing stigma service members associate with seeking help, chaplains offer Sailors, Marines and their families a safe place to talk, without fear or judgment.
Chaplains are “probably one of the best places to go when in doubt with a problem or concern or whatever your situation is. Go talk to the chaplain first. They’re always there,” said William E. Mottley, GySgt ret., former uniformed victim advocate for Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron at MCAS New River and current Transition Readiness Advisor-Supervisor for personal and professional development at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “They’re a safe haven. They really are. They’re those calm seas in a turbulent world that we can depend on,” he added.
“Confidentiality can be particularly important when a Sailor or Marine may feel they have nowhere to turn during a personal crisis, or if they’re concerned about command involvement or an impact on their career,” said Tidd.
In addition to a Message to the Fleet on confidentiality, the Chaplain Corps has established a resource page devoted to confidentiality on its website: www.chaplain.navy.mil. This page includes frequently asked questions, a fact sheet, a flyer, as well as a link to the policy.
“The Chaplain Corps is committed to caring for all with dignity, respect and compassion, regardless of an individual’s beliefs, if any. One of the ways we do this is through confidentiality,” Tidd said.
Contact your command chaplain today! Don’t know who your chaplain is? Contact Navy 311 for support in your area: 1-855-NAVY-311 or text to: Navy311@navy.mil.
Visit www.chaplain.navy.mil to learn more about Navy chaplains and confidentiality and to review the complete SECNAV Instruction 1730.9 on confidential communications to chaplains.