Presenting the Colors in a Chapel

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The Situation

I received a question not to long ago from a Marine who is the Colors Sgt (CS) for his base. He wanted to make sure he and his team were correct in the recent choices they made for a unique situation. Here is the conversation.

CS– Performed a color guard for a retirement ceremony inside a chapel, we omitted covers and rifles. Were we wrong for that?

DM– Not necessarily wrong. Base chapels are multipurpose buildings just like the base theater. Both can be used for briefings and other gatherings even though the main purpose of the chapel is to serve as a the on-base location for religious services. Just because a ceremony takes place in a chapel doesn’t mean covers are removed and rifles not used, it depends. It comes down to if the chapel was used as a chapel or if it was used purely as a place with seats and a stage/speaker’s platform.

I’ve been to at least one chapel that has a main curtain and behind that curtain is another, smaller curtain that, when opened gives the chaplain’s assistants access to a cross, crucifix, and possibly other items for different religious services. When the cross is showing, you know that the chapel is being used for a Christian service (a colors presentation would require no covers and no rifles). When the curtains are drawn, the chapel is just like any other building on base, essentially (a colors presentation would have the standard requirements). It’s always best to check with a chaplain.

CS– Thank you, I’m the Color Sgt of my unit and we just retired a chaplain of 41 years.

DM– That’s great. Most likely you were in the right to leave out covers and rifles since he was a chaplain. Appropriate place to hold the ceremony for him.

The Standards

The following applies to the Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.

“When participating in a ceremony inside a chapel, the color guard will be unarmed and uncovered.”

MCO 5060.20, Marine Corps Drill and Ceremonies, Enclosure 1, Part I, Chapter 7, paragraph 5. i.

The Army, Air Force, and Space Force do not have this requirement, but please check with a chaplain for guidance.

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