Indiana Drops Chaplaincy For Social Services Agency

Plagued by controversy, an Indiana program that would have provided chaplains to employees of the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) has been dumped.

More than a year ago, the Rev. Michael Latham, a Fort Wayne Baptist minister, was hired to start training a network of clergy to minister to FSSA employees in all counties. But after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the state in federal court, the project began to receive unflattering media coverage.

In June, The Indianapolis Star reported that Latham had only recruited 21 pastors for the state’s 92 counties and that he was hired at a salary considerably larger than other chaplains who serve in hospitals and prisons. He also was reported to have no chaplaincy training himself and that his primary qualification seemed to be his close ties to Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The Rev. Earl W. Hoopert, a retired chaplain, told the newspaper that Latham was “overpaid and under qualified. I don’t know how he got that job.”

In late August, the FSSA announced that it was dropping the program, reported the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy. Officials claimed that the legal challenge did not influence their decision.