Atheist ‘chaplains’ in the U.S. military?

20 May

They’re pushing for them. (Hat tip: Western Woes)

In what some might see as an oxymoron, an advocacy group apparently is preparing to ask the Defense Department to appoint a chaplain — for atheists.

A source tells Fox News that the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers plans to make the request on Tuesday, floating its president Jason Torpy as the proposed chaplain.


But Republican lawmakers who have fought these efforts have described the push as nonsensical. The motto of the Army Chaplain Corps is, after all, “Pro Deo et Patria,” or “For God and Country.”

Fleming said last year that the idea of an atheist chaplain 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,” he said.

Western Woes basically agrees with Fleming:

Proposing the position of an atheist chaplain is an effort to deliberately undermine the influence of Christianity among soldiers by forcing a religious position to adopt irreligious approaches in order to accommodate soldiers who do not believe in God. Such a change would not be just for the handful of atheist soldiers, but would apply to all soldiers, especially Christian. Those who would seek support for their faith would find a secular vacuum in the very position established to protect and venerate their faith. Atheists pushing for a chaplain position is ultimately an act of deliberate subversion of the Christian faith in the military.

It is the same reason feminist Sandra Fluke enrolled at the Catholic-influenced college Georgetown University and then deliberately challenged the college’s stance against insurance funding for birth control, a core conviction within the Catholic faith. It was an effort of subversion.

I agree, that it seems to be about that.

The problem is, isn’t this inevitable, if you have government-sponsored chaplains, that eventually every religious group, eventually, is going to demand official recognition?

I predicted this would happen two years ago, for that very reason:

the British military has officially recognized the presence of at least one Satanist in their ranks, back in 2004 anyway, which of course could easily pave the way for calls for him and others to have a Satanic chaplain to attend to their ‘spiritual needs’ – and on what basis could the Royal Navy say no to such a request?  The logic of liberal democracy, fairness, equality, blah blah blah, leads to such things, alas, esp. in our day and age…  It’s only a matter of time before everyone demands state-funded chaplains, if Christians can have such things.  As it is, atheists in the U.S. military have organized themselves officially into a body; how long before they start demanding atheist chaplaincies, on an equal footing (with salaries, if Christian chaplains get salaries) with currently-recognized official religious chaplains?

On the other hand, as I noted on another occasion, we also find that Christian chaplains find themselves under pressure, because they take government money, to conform to the zeitgeist:

I recently came across this article, about how police chaplains in Charlotte, North Carolina, are forbidden to mention the name of Jesus in prayer.  I have read similar things before, happening elsewhere; I’m sure this is not unique; moreover, I think we can expect it to become more common, rather than less, as time goes by.

Today, I came across this article, about how chaplains in the American military are increasingly coming under pressure, as to what they can read from Scripture, how they are to pray, etc.  There, too, chaplains are being strongly encouraged to toe the politically correct line, or consider resigning; no doubt in time, they’ll be forced out, if they can’t abide the government’s regulations on them.

And I also reported last fall on what happened during the government shutdown:

Seems the Obama administration has taken advantage of the government shutdown situation to take potshots at Christians, Catholics in particular, by forbidding Catholic chaplains to celebrate Mass on military bases.

The U.S. military has furloughed as many as 50 Catholic chaplains due to the partial suspension of government services, banning them from celebrating weekend Mass. At least one chaplain was told that if he engaged in any ministry activity, he would be subjected to disciplinary action.

Increasingly, I’ve been wondering whether churches should bother sending chaplains, esp. ones on the government’s payroll.

And I’ve also been wondering whether the State itself should be in the business of supporting chaplaincies; I’m glad to see a fellow Reformed blogger, RubeRad, has been wondering the same thing:

OK, I gotta throw the 2K flag here and ask whether there should be government-paid chaplains at all? From what I’ve heard from chaplains I know, the nature of the military, the government, and the job make it basically impossible to avoid watering down the gospel.

And why is it the government’s duty to provide the means for servicemembers (employees) to exercise their religion? It’s a free country, it’s a volunteer military, what’s the difference between working for the military, and working for a private company that sends one to a non-Christian country? (2K trick question, all countries are non-Christian, obviously I mean a country with very few Christian churches to worship in)

And if a church wants to provide religious support for soldiers, certainly it can ordain and send chaplains as missionaries to military populations. It’s one thing for the government to allow religious exercise by approving access between missionary chaplains and soldiers; it’s another for the government to provide religious services.

How can the government possibly discriminate between orthodox and heterodox religion in deciding which religions to supply chaplains for? (Obviously they can’t, since there are Mormon chaplains, Muslim chaplains, etc.)

Bloody good questions. (The 2K reference is to this.)

I think Christian reactionaries should, alongside libertarians, ask whether the State should be in the chaplaincy business at all.

And I think churches should ask, at least, whether they really wish to be taking Caesar’s money for chaplaincies and thus forced to go along with all manner of idiocy and wickedness; or whether they’d rather pay for chaplains through their own donations. Or, even further, whether having chaplaincies in the military means endorsing the State’s military policies, in effect – not to mention the effect being embedded has on the ability to preach the Gospel freely and oppose sin and evil, unconstrained by bureaucratic whims…

Just putting that out there, for consideration…

*Update: Good news, for now at least:


3 responses to “Atheist ‘chaplains’ in the U.S. military?

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