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Should an Atheist Be Allowed to Become a Military Chaplain?

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 …


Varinder Singh


Varinder Singh commented…

I had the great privilege of studying under the guidance of Jason whilst at college in the London Borough of Redbridge. Jason's approach to teaching difficult concepts was innovative and helped me reflect a lot on my own beliefs, faiths and look beyond just the class text books. Whilst I don't expect anyone to take my words as the gospel, I do believe that the forces would greatly benefit from having Jason serve as moral and ethical advisor in a pluralistic environment.

t martin


t martin commented…

Jason should check out the opportunities available to become a counselor for the military. He is obviously better suited to such a career. Here's a lead:

His interest in the chaplaincy as simply a means by which he can facilitate and care is unbelievable given the other options available to him. If he really did care he would not seek to impose his lack of faith on an institution that is fundamentally about faith, and exists within the military to comfort those of faith.

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