The call for atheist and humanist chaplains in the United States military continues, as the effort to insert non-believing “faith” leaders in the ranks was given a major boost this week.
On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey, offered up an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that would allow non-theist chaplains to join the armed forces.
While some would scoff at the idea, those who support atheist and humanist chaplains would argue that their placement in the military would allow soldiers to obtain guidance without needing to seek medical professionals’ assistance, the Huffington Post reports.
If passed, the amendment would expand the current chaplain force to embrace those who reject God’s existence.
“The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist,” Andrews’ chaplain amendment reads.
Not everyone believes that admitting these individuals is a good idea, though. In fact, Republicans, in particular, fought back against attempts to allow non-believing chaplains. The Huffington Post has more:
But Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee objected mightily, saying that atheists can’t offer spiritual counseling and would likely offend dying soldiers or their families.
“They don’t believe anything,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) “I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, ‘You know, that’s it — your son’s just worms, I mean, worm food.'”
“This I think would make a mockery of the chaplaincy,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). “The last thing in the world we would want to see was a young soldier who may be dying and they’re at a field hospital and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there is no hope for you in the future.'”
Based on the response and composition of the legislative body, it appears the amendment lacks the votes it needs to pass committee. But it’s likely, regardless of what happens with the amendment, that non-believers will continue their fight.
TheBlaze has been covering this issue of the push for an atheist chaplaincy since 2011. It was at that time that we noted a past interview the Christian Post did with Paul Vicalvi, the executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals Chaplain Commission. The faith leader said, among other things, that he was puzzled by atheists’ push to join the chaplaincy.
“Traditionally chaplains are seen as a person of a higher power faith,” he said. “It would redefine the chaplaincy if a non-faith person becomes a chaplain,” he said.
Furthermore, Vicalvi claimed that the support these individuals are looking for is already in place. With psychologists and counselors already available to military personnel, he maintained that non-believers already have secular resources to fall back on.
Still, non-believers would argue that they are entitled to the same rights as religious individuals and that chaplains could truly assist them in meeting their emotional needs.
It’s likely this issue won’t be going away anytime soon. What do you think about atheist and humanist chaplains in the military? Let us know in the comments section.
We’ll leave you with Conaway’s controversial comments, below:
(H/T: Huffington Post)
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