Should an Atheist Be Allowed to Become a Military Chaplain?
July 31, 2013
Jason Heap is a religious scholar who has submitted his application to the Armed Forces Chaplains Board in an effort to become an official Navy chaplain. Though he’s passed his physical and meets all of the necessary requirements, there is one issue that may prevent him from getting the job—his belief. Heap, who doesn’t believe in God, wants to become the military’s first humanist chaplain. Currently, lawmakers in Washington are attempting to create legislation that could potentially disqualify atheists from being a part of the chaplain corps. Rep. John Fleming, sponsor of an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that could block military officials from accepting non-believers into the program, told Stars and Stripes, “The notion of an atheist chaplain is nonsensical; it’s an oxymoron. It is absurd to argue that someone with no spiritual inclination should fill that role, especially when it could well mean that such an individual would take the place of a true chaplain who has been endorsed by a religious organization.” His amendment would require an established organization to first endorse chaplaincy candidates.
Heap, who holds master’s degrees from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University and Oxford argues, “At the end of the day, my job is not to inculcate my viewpoints onto other people. My job as a chaplain is to be a facilitator, someone who cares for people, someone who is a sounding board.” The chaplains board is expected to make their decision about Heap in the next few weeks …