GOP Congressman Looks to Prevent ‘Atheist Chaplains’ in Armed Forces

by Lindsey Grudnicki

Representative John Fleming recently introduced a measure to block proposals providing for the appointment of atheist and humanist chaplains in the U.S. military.

Following Democratic representative Rob Andrews’s failed amendment to the 2014 defense budget that sought to allow non-religious chaplains, Fleming has called for a new amendment to the budget authorization act that would define a chaplain as ”a minister of the faith – someone who believes in a deity of spiritual life who is assigned to a secular organization.”

The Louisiana Republican has called the idea of an atheist chaplain “an oxymoron” and Andrews’s amendment “total nonsense.” Earlier in the debate, he said that non-believing chaplains would “make a mockery of the chaplaincy” and its mission.

The president of the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers claims that over 20 percent of soldiers have no religious preference and could use the “positive outreach and support” of chaplains who have no specific set of beliefs, but Republican lawmakers have questioned the need for atheist or agnostic chaplains when other counseling and support services are available to military personnel.

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