What’s certain, however, is that the military needs to be accepting of those who do not believe, and that apparently hasn’t always been the case at Fort Meade and other military bases. Chaplains and religious lay leaders have been accused of treating atheists either as moral pariahs unfit to wear the uniform or trying to convert them to their personal religious beliefs regarding God and salvation. Service members who describe themselves as atheists have complained of religious bias against nonbelievers and a lack of sensitivity to their needs for affirmation and a sense of connectedness to a community of like-minded individuals.
That’s no more acceptable for a chaplain or lay religious leader than refusing to respect the beliefs of the service’s other recognized religions or denominations. Commanders must demand that those entrusted with caring for the spiritual needs of troops refrain from proselytizing their personal religious convictions.
If today’s chaplains and lay religious leaders can’t bring themselves to respect the beliefs of such men, both of whom performed courageously in battle, the fault lies not in their faith, whatever it may be, but in the narrow, intolerant way they — and the armed forces — have chosen to interpret it.
The military needs to act swiftly on this. There’s no reason to deny Humanists the title they want, especially after so many religious leaders have screwed this up so badly.