Two members of Congress are applauding the U.S. Navy for rejecting an atheist’s application to become a chaplain.
The service in 2014 rejected the application of Jason Heap, who was backed by the Humanist Society. Heap sued and lost, but a Navy chaplain advisory board recently recommended approving his application.
However, dozens of members of Congress wrote to the Navy to express their outrage, and the application was turned down. The letter stated bluntly, “Without a belief in the transcendent, and with an avowed opposition to religion itself, an individual cannot fulfill the mission and duties of a chaplain.”
“The very definition of the chaplaincy was at stake here, so I’m relieved to see the Navy’s response,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. “Appointing an atheist to a historically religious role would’ve gone against everything the chaplaincy was created to do. It would open the door to a host of so-called chaplains who represent philosophical worldviews and NOT the distinctly religious role of the Chaplain Corps.
“I applaud the Navy for upholding the truth.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., concurred.
“The Navy’s leadership has done the right thing. The appointment of an atheist to [a] … religious position is fundamentally incompatible with atheism’s secularism. This decision preserves the distinct religious role that our chaplains carry out.”
The two congressmen wrote letters, signed by dozens of members of Congress, to the secretary of the Navy and its chief of chaplains opposing the appointment after it had been recommended by the Chaplain Appointment and Retention Eligibility Advisory Group.
The lawmakers pointed out the hiring would violate the Defense Department’s own guidelines and erode the unique spiritual tradition of the military.
Commented the Family Research Council: “While neither letter mentioned what the two chambers could do – forcing the Navy’s hand through appropriations riders or other pressure points – branch leaders got the message.”
FRC said that if the military “wants to create specific programs for atheists or humanists, it can.”
“There’s no need to hijack the Chaplain Corps to serve them – unless, as I suspect, the real goal had nothing to do with service to begin with. Either way, we salute the Navy for protecting the integrity of the chaplaincy, ‘For God and Country.'”
FRC senior fellow Chris Gacek spoke with WND and Radio America about the dispute.
He argued that if the Navy allows an atheist chaplain, there’s no telling where that decision could lead.
“What’s the limit? There’s no reason to think it would just be stuck at one or that you wouldn’t have more of them or all sorts of people coming in here who are just basically yoga instructors,” said Gacek.
“It’s like saying the pastors and priests division has to accept atheists. A does not equal B here. It’s like having square wheels or something. It’s kind of hard to imagine you even have to have this debate.
“It’s important I think to maintain the integrity of the institution. We’ve had chaplains since 1775, when George Washington himself had Congress establish the chaplains,” said Gacek.