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BOP REVERSES “ARMED CHAPLAIN” RULE
A BOP prison chaplain’s quest to disarm chaplains won out, as the agency announced last month that chaplains will no longer be required to carry pepper spray.
Last November, the agency agreed that Rev. Ronald Apollo, a retired Air Force chaplain now serving as a BOP chaplain did not have to carry pepper spray. Earlier last year, the BOP had mandated that all workers in medium and high security institutions to carry around spray last year, prompted by a federal law passed in 2015 to keep prison staff safe. Rev. Apollo refused, arguing the rule violated his religious beliefs and jeopardized the impartiality he needs to counsel prisoners and win their trust.
BOP’s personnel classifications exempt chaplains from firearms training and hold that “in the event of an actual disturbance the professional skills of a chaplain will be applied in another way.” Rev. Apollo argued that requiring him to carry spray violated he classification and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
“Now we are able to work on a level to do everything we could do before, in the same capacity, exactly how we were doing it before when… spray was never an issue,” Rev. Apollo said. “We still respond to alarms, we still preach, we could counsel and we’re free to go about all areas of the institution like the ministers we were hired to be without any reservations.
The Marshall Project, The Bureau of Prisons Yields to a Chaplain’s Conscience (Jan. 26, 2018)
– Thomas L. Root