The ongoing debate over atheist chaplains in the military progresses, with non-believers continuing to push for representation in the religious ranks. As we reported in June, the Congressional discussion surrounding atheist and humanist chaplains has become heated — and a new GOP effort to prevent the institution is likely going to add to some activists’ frustration.
Earlier this summer, you may remember that Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews of New Jersey offered up an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that would have allowed non-theist chaplains to join the armed forces. While it inevitably failed, if passed, the amendment would have expanded 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 read.
Now, Republicans are taking a similar avenue in trying to prevent the installation of non-believing chaplains — individuals who are heralded by atheist leaders as having the ability to help non-theist soldiers cope with life issues without needing to seek the help of a doctor.
Led by Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming, the new effort takes an opposite approach to Andrews’ push for humanist chaplains. Instead, the congressman has created a new amendment to the defense budget bill that would ensure that any and all chaplains have an official affiliation with a specific faith, Fox News reports.
“When it comes to the idea of an atheist chaplain, which is an oxymoron — it’s self-contradictory — what you’re really doing is now saying that we’re going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains,” Fleming told the outlet. “It’s just total nonsense, the idea of having a chaplain who is an atheist.”
The congressman is fighting against individuals like Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers, who believes that atheist chaplains are a necessity. In an effort to clear up what, exactly, a chaplain is, Fleming defined the role as follows: “A chaplain is a minister of the faith — someone who believes in a deity of a spiritual life who is assigned to a secular organization.”
The Christian Fighter Pilot blog reports that Fleming’s proposal would “Prevent funds from being used to appoint chaplains without an endorsing agency.”
Clearly, an atheist chaplain, using this descriptive, is an oxymoron. That said, the battle to instill these non-believers forges on.
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