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After Congressional Protest, Navy Rejects Humanist Chaplain

Lt. Hammond, a chaplain aboard USS San Diego, leads Marines and Sailors in pr...

Credit: Defense of Department

Above: Lt. Hammond, a chaplain aboard USS San Diego, leads Marines and Sailors in prayer, Aug. 5, 2017.

The Navy has again rejected approving a secular humanist chaplain. It is a move that one chaplain who has worked with San Diego military said hurts those on active duty who share their beliefs.

The Navy Times reports the Navy rejected the application of Jason Heap, who applied to become a military chaplain. Heap filed a lawsuit in 2013 after he was rejected previously.

A group of congressmen and senators wrote open letters urging the Navy to reject the military’s first humanist chaplain — humanists are sometimes described as atheists. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, wrote a letter March 12 to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson after learning the application had cleared the first part of the selection process.

The vast majority of military chaplains are Christian.

“There is no person of equal authority informing them of what humanists might need or nonbelievers might need,” said Debbie Allen, a private Humanist Chaplain who serves of the national board of the American Humanist Association. “I mean, we have humanists in university settings, in hospital settings. Why is it only the U.S. military that is pushing back on this?”

Until recently Allen lived in San Diego and worked to open secular humanist chaplains to work on Camp Pendleton. The American Humanist Association estimates at least 24,000 active duty troops consider themselves nonbelievers.

The Navy won't allow the military's first secular humanist chaplain to serve after members of Congress protest the move.

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