chaplain, atheist chaplain, Jason Heap, navy

Navy Strikes Down Application for Atheist Chaplain

“If the U.S. Navy appointed its first atheist chaplain…what could his duties as a chaplain be? Perhaps he could tell a sailor seeking spiritual solace in the face of death not to worry, he has no soul, anyway,” writes the nameless author.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

The navy has rejected the application of Jason Heap, a doctor in theological history, who had applied for the position of atheist chaplain, The Washington Times reports.

The author of the article, conspicuously anonymous, indulges in a ‘witticism’ on the apparently paradoxical nature of the position: “If the U.S. Navy appointed its first atheist chaplain, as the organized atheists demanded (twice), what could his duties as a chaplain be? Perhaps he could tell a sailor seeking spiritual solace in the face of death not to worry, he has no soul, anyway.”

Heap sued in 2014 and again in 2018, losing both times. The Navy nearly permitted the appointment, but then the Chaplain Appointment and Retention Eligibility Advisory Group made a recommendation that went to the chief of naval operations, who decides who can and cannot be a chaplain.

22 senators, 45 congressmen, and 67 members of Congress told the Navy not to make the appointment. So they did not.

The lawmakers explained their case, “Without a belief in the transcendent, and with avowed opposition to religion itself… an individual cannot fulfill the mission and duties of a chaplain.”

“Without a belief in the transcendent, and with avowed opposition to religion itself… an individual cannot fulfill the mission and duties of a chaplain.”

On which our clever author elaborates: “This would seem to be self-evident, but nothing is self-evident any longer in America, with a man now enabled to take another man as his bride, and with a woman enabled to lead men in an assault on an enemy position and men, women and children free to use a latrine together.”

Does the marriage officiant declare “I now pronounce you husband and wife” at a gay wedding, or might our pearl clutching friend be the slightest bit misled on the ‘perils’ of progress?

Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi was the leader of the opposition. He is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The 22 senators, in their letter, noted that the U.S. Navy holds authority to create programs for humanists and atheists, but the Chaplain Corps should not be the place.

“The Navy’s leadership has done the right thing,” Sen. Wicker stated. “The appointment of an atheist to a religious position is fundamentally incompatible with atheism’s secularism.”

Wicker views chaplaincy as a recourse for religious people and not for the non-religious. Rep. Douglas Lamborn (R) from Colorado agreed with Wicker, arguing that the appointment would have gone against what he sees as the original role of the chaplaincy.

“The appointment of an atheist to a historically religious role would have gone against everything the chaplaincy was created to do. It would open the door to a host of so-called chaplains who represent [a] philosophical worldview and not the distinctly religious role of the Chaplain Corps.”