Theocrat Upset by Secular Humanist Chaplains

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is quite beside himself because the Navy is considering hiring a secular humanist chaplain. He wails and cries about how this is a betrayal of George Washington’s legacy and blah blah blah blah. Read this, then I’ll give a little more information on Wicker’s history and views:

I oppose the appointment of a “secular-humanist” chaplain, and I have formally requested that the secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations reject this application. I am not alone in my request. Twenty-two of my colleagues in the Senate have joined me in this effort.

The appointment of an atheist to an undeniably religious position is fundamentally incompatible with atheism’s secularism. Our military chaplains serve under the motto “for God and country.” Atheism is defined by the absence of a belief in the existence of God.

No one is arguing that atheists do not have the same First Amendment rights of free expression as their neighbors of Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other faiths. This is not the subject of scrutiny. The central question here is how an atheist chaplain can be expected to fulfill a role that, by its very nature, is supposed to serve the religious needs of our service members.

Oh, the horror! A single humanist chaplain out of more than 800 in the Navy alone, and thousands more in the other military branches, is enough to make him clutch his pearls. But Wicker has a history of this sort of idiotic pandering and preference for theocracy. In 1995, when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Wicker expressed similar outrage after a case called Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District, a lawsuit filed for a variety of clear violations of the First Amendment in that school district in Mississippi.

For starters, every day began with a prayer said over the school’s PA system, and they often had vocal prayers in class during instructional time as well. Some of the teachers would designate a student to lead a prayer before lunch each day. Anyone who didn’t want to participate in the pre-lunch prayers could step outside into the hallway, immediately singling them out among their classmates for ridicule.

The school also had a Bible class, which was overseen by a “Bible committee” made up of leaders from the local Protestant churches. The class was taught by someone chosen by the Bible committee, not a school employee, but the school provided classroom space and paid for books and other materials for the class. The Mississippi State Department of Education had actually already warned the school about the class and refused to allow them to grant academic credit for it, but they had made some changes to get it approved.

As often happens, there was a huge rally to defend this clearly unconstitutional behavior. A local Baptist minister organized the rally and 1500 people showed up. Wicker spoke at that rally and had this to say:

“Now I want to say this to the plaintiffs in this lawsuit: You could not have inflicted a deeper wound upon the souls, upon the very core of this community, than to do what you’ve done.”

Expecting the government-funded public schools to follow the Constitution is a deep “wound upon the souls” of the community. Forcing kids to listen to prayers they may not agree with, that’s perfectly fine. Singling out young children to be ostracized and called devil worshipers, that’s perfectly fine. But filing this suit is a deep wound. And the government paying the salaries of thousands of religious chaplains to counsel soldiers is normal and expected, but hiring just a single humanist chaplain to do the same for non-religious soldiers? Outrage! Horror!

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