Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

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Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#1  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jun 27, 2015 2:15 pm

http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2015/06/18/navy-lawyers-defend-rejection-of-atheist-chaplain-jason-heap-humanist-humanism/28937925/

Jason Heap was a 38-year-old former youth minister with a master's degree in divinity from Texas Christian University when he applied to become a Navy chaplain.

But the sea service rejected his application last year after he revealed plans to affiliate with the Humanist Society and the American Humanist Association, which espouses a "progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives," according to the group's website.

The Navy's decision to reject an "atheist chaplain" is under scrutiny by a federal judge overseeing Heap's lawsuit, in which he claims the Navy violated his constitutional rights through discrimination and denial of his right to religious freedom.

The matter was argued in detail for the first time in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday, as a team of attorneys representing the Navy sought a summary judgment and urged District Judge James Chacheris to declare the lawsuit without merit.

The Navy claims Heap was turned away in part because of his limited experience as a religious leader, which raised questions about his ability to handle the role of providing spiritual care for thousands of sailors aboard ships at sea.

"It's a very serious job that requires a lot of experience providing religious ministry," said Kieran Gostin, an attorney representing the Defense Department and the Navy.

"It's not that [Heap] cannot practice Humanism in his private life, it's that he is not being hired by the Navy to do it in an official capacity as a chaplain."
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#2  Postby DavidMcC » Jun 27, 2015 3:48 pm

Hmmm... Only time will tell if the US navy is making excuses for disallowing a less-than pious chaplain on the grounds that he is too inexperienced (as they claim), or whether it is really because they think he is not religious enough. (Unless there have already been similar cases, involving experienced non-religious chaplains, that is.)
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#3  Postby Ironclad » Jul 05, 2015 8:40 am

The Dutch have non religious chaplains, I'm pretty certain

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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#4  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jul 05, 2015 8:42 am

Ironclad wrote:The Dutch have non religious chaplains, I'm pretty certain

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Could be, I don't know.
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#5  Postby proudfootz » Aug 04, 2017 3:24 am

It's all kind of crazy, but it seems if someone wants the job why not let them do it?

Heap is applying to become the first humanist chaplain with the U.S. Navy. These chaplains are also assigned to the pastoral care of Marines. But this leads to the inevitable question: What would you do, on the eve of battle, if a grunt asked you to pray with him?

"As a pastoral caregiver, I wouldn't lead a prayer with that particular person, but I would help them with it," Heap says. "Having come from the background of Christians, I would understand what sort of things to help the person speak about. I am very familiar with the Bible as a scholar. If they are a humanist or an atheist, even Wiccan or pagan, it would be on the sort of terms where I would be able to work more with them philosophically."

Harvard, Stanford and three other universities have humanist chaplains. So does the Dutch army. But the idea of a nonbelieving chaplain in the U.S. military has provoked a backlash.

...

According to current Pentagon records, about 1 percent of active duty military in all four services checked boxes for "agnostic" and "atheist" as their religious status. That's more than 13,000 soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors. This is, incidentally, more than all the Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims combined — and they each have their own chaplains.

But some traditional chaplains, such as Ron Crews, will have none of it. Crews, a retired Army chaplain with 28 years in uniform, is director of the advocacy group Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.

" 'For God and country.' That is the motto of the chaplain corps," he says, "and someone who comes from a humanist freethinker position could not ascribe to that motto. So it's by definition of who a chaplain is."

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/31/207320123 ... eve-in-god
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#6  Postby zulumoose » Aug 04, 2017 6:26 am

The Navy claims Heap was turned away in part because of his limited experience as a religious leader, which raised questions about his ability to handle the role of providing spiritual care for thousands of sailors aboard ships at sea.


If they use that term in a definition of the role, then nobody can be said to fill the role, since spiritual anything cannot even be shown to exist.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#7  Postby DavidMcC » Aug 04, 2017 5:26 pm

zulumoose wrote:
The Navy claims Heap was turned away in part because of his limited experience as a religious leader, which raised questions about his ability to handle the role of providing spiritual care for thousands of sailors aboard ships at sea.


If they use that term in a definition of the role, then nobody can be said to fill the role, since spiritual anything cannot even be shown to exist.

... Assuming the connotation of "spiritual" which is not to do with mood (ie, your spirits), but to do with the "holy spirit", or whatever. It's ambiguous, IMO.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#8  Postby proudfootz » Aug 04, 2017 5:29 pm

Well, it's probably a matter of morale, as superstitious troops might not feel well served getting their magic spells from someone who's known to be skeptical.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#9  Postby DavidMcC » Aug 04, 2017 5:39 pm

proudfootz wrote:Well, it's probably a matter of morale, as superstitious troops might not feel well served getting their magic spells from someone who's known to be skeptical.

So you think it's both spirit in the sense of morale AND spirit in the sense of the "Holy spirit"? :scratch:
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#10  Postby proudfootz » Aug 04, 2017 5:47 pm

Well, from a practical POV I'd say it was a matter of morale, something the management might want to manage.

From the subjective POV of an individual who believes they are an immortal soul and that there are benevolent and malign spirits who need to be either mollified or defied they might not appreciate dealing with someone whom the know doesn't share the same sort of notions.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#11  Postby DavidMcC » Aug 04, 2017 7:41 pm

proudfootz wrote:Well, from a practical POV I'd say it was a matter of morale, something the management might want to manage.

From the subjective POV of an individual who believes they are an immortal soul and that there are benevolent and malign spirits who need to be either mollified or defied they might not appreciate dealing with someone whom the know doesn't share the same sort of notions.

I suppose it's too much to ask for the US Navy to challenge their sailors' irrational beliefs, when they themselves may well hold similar beliefs. :(
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#12  Postby I'm With Stupid » Aug 05, 2017 9:39 am

proudfootz wrote:Well, it's probably a matter of morale, as superstitious troops might not feel well served getting their magic spells from someone who's known to be skeptical.

Presumably no more so than if getting served by someone who's the wrong type of religious.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#13  Postby proudfootz » Aug 05, 2017 1:31 pm

I can just imagine what happens when a Baptist Marine has to prepare to meet his maker with only a Muslim chaplain to act as spiritual guide to the afterlife.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#14  Postby DavidMcC » Aug 05, 2017 1:49 pm

proudfootz wrote:I can just imagine what happens when a Baptist Marine has to prepare to meet his maker with only a Muslim chaplain to act as spiritual guide to the afterlife.

What's the differencë? Only a slight one, in the detail. Both believe the same basic fantasy, and both tend to recognise that they belierve in the same god.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#15  Postby thirsting » Aug 06, 2017 8:44 am

Link doesn't work, but the quote in first post does not even say mr Heap actually isn't a theist or religious. It says he wants to merely incorporate humanists/humanism into what ever it is chaplains are doing, so I can't see why they call him "atheist chaplain" in the text. Just too progressive for navy then?
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#16  Postby Dolorosa » Aug 14, 2018 7:05 pm

This is the first I read about this case but it immediately reminded me of Kaufman, James v. McCaughtry, Gary, 2005 (not the ‘pornography’ claim). The latter went to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled that the correctional facility had no legitimate reason for denying James Kaufman’s request to form an atheist study group. Their decision adopted the broad definition of ‘religion’ for purposes of the First Amendment that included atheistic beliefs and cited Supreme Court decision in Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985, where the Court had “unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.

The defendants in this case similarly argued that their refusal of inmate’s request for an atheist group had nothing to do with religion but rather security, among other things. If I’m not mistaken it came down to numbers and that the demand did not justify the expenditure.

Given that the legal definition of religion now incorporates atheism and the DOD actually list atheism and agnosticism in their list of recognised faiths and beliefs, the military kinda opened themselves up to more of these applications (unless, of course, DOD now purges its list of all inconvenient designations and/or the Supreme Court reverses its definition of religion.)
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#17  Postby Keep It Real » Aug 14, 2018 7:17 pm

I am an atheist of faith and belief. This is a real eye-opener for me Dolorosa and thank you. Not UK military however :nitpick:
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#18  Postby Dolorosa » Aug 14, 2018 7:40 pm

Keep It Real wrote:I am an atheist of faith and belief. This is a real eye-opener for me Dolorosa and thank you. Not UK military however :nitpick:


Thanks. I think we've come a long way since 2015 and I'd like to believe that the UK military is a bit more progressive when it comes to equality and diversity but that could be just my own personal bias.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#19  Postby zulumoose » Aug 15, 2018 8:20 am

Dolorosa wrote: I'd like to believe that the UK military is a bit more progressive when it comes to equality and diversity but that could be just my own personal bias.


Well given that religion has been quite openly ridiculed and made fun of in the UK media since around the mid 70's, in line with society, it is not surprising that an institution like the military has bowed to reality. I can't imagine a situation in the British army like you have in the U.S. military where prayer circles are the norm and non-believers are the outsiders.
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Re: Navy lawyers defend rejection of atheist chaplain

#20  Postby GrahamH » Aug 15, 2018 9:11 am

I'm With Stupid wrote:
proudfootz wrote:Well, it's probably a matter of morale, as superstitious troops might not feel well served getting their magic spells from someone who's known to be skeptical.

Presumably no more so than if getting served by someone who's the wrong type of religious.


This is the central point, isn't it? Surely religious people would want to be ministered to by a chaplain that believes as they do. Why would a devout Catholic want to 'talk with God' with a Buddhist? Why would a devout Muslim want to pray with a Scientologist?

Either embrace the religious aspect and cater for each religion separately, since they are mutually exclusive at that level, or drop it and go for a more psychological wellbeing slant without the God stuff.
Why do you think that?
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