Earlier today, the American Humanist Association held a congressional briefing about the need for Humanist chaplains in the military.
Speakers included Jason Torpy (President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers), Stephen Boyd (retired colonel and military chaplain), and Major Ryan Jean (current military member):
More than 50 congressional staffers came to the event to hear why this issue is so important to so many people:
Stated Major Ryan Jean, “I am living proof that there is an active population of humanists in the service now. The chaplaincy corps’ purpose is to facilitate the free exercise of all military members.”
With over 13,000 active duty personnel identifying as atheists or agnostics, nontheist soldiers outnumber all non-Christian faiths in the military. Over 276,000 service members also identify as having no religious preference. Despite the growing number of nontheists in the military, all applications for humanist chaplains have so far been rejected.
“It is imperative that Congress address the unmet needs of humanist soldiers, who endure the stresses of combat and sacrifice so much for their country,” said Maggie Ardiente, director of communications for the American Humanist Association and moderator for the briefing. “These service members would benefit greatly from the confidential guidance and comfort provided by a chaplain who understands humanism and shares their belief.”
When Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced legislation in the House last year that would approve Humanist chaplains, it was defeated by a vote of 274-150.
The hope from this briefing is that, if similar legislation were introduced again, more members of Congress would vote in favor of it. However, there are no plans right now to re-introduce that legislation.
(Image via the AHA. Portions of this article were posted earlier)