Humanist chaplains are trained and ready to serve, but the Armed Forces continues to ignore the needs of nontheists in uniform.
One of the greatest sacrifices that any American can make is to serve in a branch of our Armed Forces. For their service, our military has an obligation to provide for all service members of every faith and no faith. A crucial service provided for our soldiers are chaplains, who offer counseling in accordance with a service member’s particular religion. Unfortunately, a humanist who seeks a chaplain’s counsel cannot get access to a humanist chaplain. More concerning is still is that a humanist seeking counsel is encouraged by military leaders to seek guidance from a chaplaincy that disavows and silences humanist values.
No matter what their beliefs or theology, every service member should have access to the values-based services and support that chaplains are uniquely empowered to provide. While nontheists may seek counseling from a licensed mental health professional, visiting with a chaplain has two significant advantages: these meetings are one hundred percent confidential, and they do not carry the unfortunate stigma that is associated with seeing a mental health professional. Service members who may be concerned about jeopardizing their careers will often choose to see a chaplain for mental or emotional support.
Nontheist servicemembers bear the same burden as their peers and should not be deprived of equal access to services simply because they do not subscribe to a religious affiliation. The lawmakers who loudly proclaim to “support the troops” while blocking legislation that would serve our nontheists in uniform are not only hypocrites, they are undermining the strength of our military. Our Armed Forces are strongest when we fully support the individual service members who serve.
Nontheists proudly serve in every branch of our nation’s Armed Forces and have a right to chaplains that share their nontheistic worldview. The Secular Coalition for America calls on Congress and the Department of Defense to support Humanist Chaplains for our Armed Services. This will provide tens of thousands of service members with access to the counseling they need and will ensure that our Armed Forces reflect the principles of equality and religiously neutrality on which our nation was founded.
A U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sided with Father Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain, in ruling that he could not be ordered to allow a self-described atheist to offer a secular prayer to…