Acting Governor Scutari Enacts Firefighters Chaplain Bill

“Flexibility in Appointing Chaplains to Fire Departments in New Jersey Expanded by New Law”

August 28, 2023

In a significant move, Acting Governor Nicholas Scutari has signed A-5275/S-3671, a bill that grants municipal governing bodies in New Jersey broader discretion in the appointment of chaplains to their fire departments. This new law aims to provide more flexibility and options for the selection and compensation of chaplains within local fire departments.

Under the existing legislation, municipal governing bodies can appoint one or more ordained members of the clergy as chaplains to the paid or part-paid fire department and force of the municipality. These chaplains hold the rank of battalion chief, and their salaries are determined by the governing body. However, the recently passed bill allows municipalities to specify in the appointment ordinance whether the chaplain will have a rank and salary. Furthermore, the new law ensures that any chaplain employed prior to the bill’s enactment will be protected from dismissal and salary reduction, except for specific causes.

Acting Governor Scutari expressed his support for the measure, acknowledging the valuable service provided by chaplains to local fire departments and the communities they serve. He emphasized that chaplains play a critical role in supporting and uplifting the men and women who put their lives at stake while safeguarding residents’ safety. By granting municipalities the authority to appoint fire chaplains that meet their specific needs, the new law strikes a balance between effective chaplaincy services and cost considerations.

The primary sponsors of this legislation are Senators Linda R. Greenstein and Shirley K. Turner, alongside Assemblymembers Daniel R. Benson and Reginald W. Atkins. Senator Greenstein emphasized the bill’s alignment with her commitment to fully support first responders. She believes that by expanding the role of chaplains in fire departments and allowing for tailored positions, fire houses can better cater to the needs of their respective communities. Senator Turner highlighted the significance of diversity, stating that the creation of the Fire Chaplain position and the increased flexibility in selecting chaplains will ensure that firefighters have access to a spiritual advisor who shares their faith.

Assemblyman Benson emphasized that the new law empowers municipalities to determine appropriate compensation for chaplains or volunteers in their fire departments. He lauded the measure for enabling local governments to make informed decisions that serve their communities and first responders effectively. Echoing similar sentiments, Assemblyman Atkins emphasized the significant role played by fire chaplains in supporting firefighters and their families during challenging times. He commended the flexibility granted to municipalities regarding the job parameters of newly appointed fire department chaplains.

Eddie Donnelly, President of the NJ FMBA, praised the crucial role of fire chaplains within New Jersey’s firefighting community. Donnelly expressed appreciation for the sponsors of the bill and Acting Governor Scutari for their efforts in enacting this legislation, which solidifies the significance of fire chaplains and memorializes their contributions.

Furthermore, Deacon Bob Tharp highlighted the impact of the bill, noting that it allows municipalities to establish the position of Fire Chaplain without the burden of salary or rank requirements. This change provides communities the freedom to create the role of Fire Chaplain without financial constraints, ultimately allowing these chaplains to serve as vital support systems for firefighters dealing with stress, trauma, and loss. Deacon Tharp also emphasized the Fire Chaplain’s role in offering community support during life-changing events.

The President of the NJ State Firemen’s Association, Robert Ordway, underscored the need for flexibility regarding fire chaplains, particularly in attracting and retaining firefighters, both paid and volunteer positions. Ordway applauded the bill for promoting smart public policy that prioritizes recruitment, training, and the safety of firefighters. He further commended the legislation for ensuring equitable treatment of police and firefighter chaplains. Ultimately, Ordway expressed gratitude to the legislative sponsors, the Governor’s Office, and Acting Governor Scutari for their collective efforts in enacting this important law.

In conclusion, the expanded flexibility in appointing chaplains to fire departments in New Jersey signifies a significant advancement in meeting the diverse needs of local communities. The new law is expected to enhance support systems for firefighters, promote religious diversity, and facilitate the effective recruitment and retention of first responders.

Related Articles

Back to top button