Atheist's application to be US Navy's first humanist chaplain gets turned down

(Photo: SoulBring)

Jason Heap has all the credentials on paper to be a US Navy chaplain - an Oxford and Brite Divinity school graduate who had passed his physical tests and had taught at a Methodist church in Texas.  But one thing was lacking - faith. 

The 38-year-old is a humanist who does not believe in God, but that didn't stop him from applying to the US Navy chaplaincy.

It's also little wonder that the US Navy turned him down. If his application had been successful he would have been the US military's first humanist chaplain.

According to a story in the LA Times, he didn't apply for the post last month to make a point or bring attention to himself.  He was simply wanting to serve his country and members of the military who, like himself, do not believe in God. 

"As both a humanist and a scholar of religion, I have a deep knowledge and understanding of world religions," Heap said. "My purpose and focus as a chaplain will be for holistic well-being of anyone who is in need of pastoral care."

According to the LA Times, humanism is not on the Pentagon list of the 81 religions represented by the nearly 3,000 chaplains serving in the US military, but the list of those represented does include "unknown" and "no religious preference".

Heap's application was endorsed by the Humanist Society and supported by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, but it comes at a time when the possibility of the first military atheist chaplain may be about to become harder, not easier.

Just last month, Rep John Fleming's measure to block atheist chaplains in the military got a vote of approval from the House of Representatives.

It's not done and dusted yet as the Senate still has to vote on it.

In Fleming's view, such a ban is a no-brainer. 

"The notion of an atheist chaplain is nonsensical - it's an oxymoron. It's absurd to argue that someone with no spiritual inclination should fill that role."

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