Sailor Denied Access to Navy Chapel for Humanist Wedding

The American Humanist Association is protesting the Naval Academy’s denial of use of a chapel for a sailor’s wedding because it was to be presided over by a humanist celebrant. They’ve written a letter to the superintendent of the Naval Academy, which you can read here.

This letter is written on behalf of Ensign Sean A. Cruz, a 2012 graduate of the United States Naval Academy (the “Naval Academy”) and an active duty naval officer. Ensign Cruz submitted an application to be married in the Naval Academy’s Main Chapel (the “Chapel”). Ensign Cruz stated that he wished to have a Humanist celebrant preside over his wedding, but was told that only Christian ceremonies were permitted to take place in the Chapel. This discriminatory policy is unconstitutional. The Naval Academy cannot deny use of its publicly-owned facilities on the basis of the religious views of those wishing to do so.

They’re absolutely right. The letter goes into much more detail on this. This is a perfect example of Christian privilege, especially when combined with the House Republicans passing an amendment to prohibit the appointment of humanist chaplains in the military. At a military academy that undoubtedly has cadets and sailors from every imaginable religious and non-religious viewpoint, they demand that they be given their own space and exclusive access to it and they react with shock at the idea that others should be allowed to use it.

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  • I teach at a Methodist college that allows its chapel to be used for non-Christian ceremonies. I guess Methodists in academia are a little more enlightened than the evangelicals who run the USNA.

  • Ben P

    I teach at a Methodist college that allows its chapel to be used for non-Christian ceremonies. I guess Methodists in academia are a little more enlightened than the evangelicals who run the USNA.

    I went to school at a Methodist liberal arts college that has allowed its chapel to be used for same sex ceremonies.

  • quidam

    “Sex ceremonies” in a chapel? Sign me up

  • D. C. Sessions

    Mr Upright@1:

    The difference is that your Methodist college doesn’t have the heavy responsibility of defending a Christian Nation.

  • Erp

    I could imagine them baulking at a non-military chaplain presiding but that doesn’t seem to be the problem (and if that is a road block bring in one of the UUA military chaplains to preside or co-preside). I wonder if non-trinitarian Christians are allowed to use the chapel for weddings?

  • Looks to me like a lawsuit waiting for a venue.

    Otoh, the USNA could solve this problem in a hurry by allowing the wedding OR by having one of their asshole buddies in some personnel office send the sailor off on a never ending TDY to some exotic locale like Kabul.

  • shay

    Speaking as a Christian and a veteran, the USNA is completely in the wrong here; and i predict they’ll soon have to back-track.

  • Childermass

    Erp @ 5,

    That is pretty much would I am thinking too. A UU chaplain would almost certainly willing to give the couple exactly what they want in terms of wedding service. Indeed a large percent of UUs are humanists.

  • bastionofsass


    If Christians using the chapel are allowed to select their own wedding officiants, so should a Humanist.

    If Christians using the chapel may select an officiant of a particular faith, and are not told that an officiant of another faith “would almost certainly [be] willing to give the couple what they want in a wedding service”, so they should be satisfied with that option, those wanting a humanist ceremony should have the same right.

    And the UU is a religion, albeit a liberal and not a traditionally dogmatic one. Couples who want a secular wedding should not be forced to have a religious member of clergy, even a UU, perform a ceremony for them.

    I’m really fed up with the special religious privilege allowing clergy to perform a marriage ceremony. Why should a couple who wants a secular ceremony, but doesn’t want to be married at the courthouse, be required to be married by a member of clergy, even if it’s a UU Chaplin, a pagan, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, or someone ordained online, if the ceremony is to be a secular one?