Why Can’t Jason Heap Become a Military Chaplain?

Jason Heap wants to become a chaplain in the U.S. Navy and he seems perfectly qualified to do so: He has two master’s degrees, passed his physicals, and completed the paperwork… but Kimberly Winston tells us that what he doesn’t have is the endorsement of a religious organization (***Edit***: I should say that he does have the endorsement of a religious group, just not one approved by the Navy):

Jason Heap

Heap is a Humanist. He carries the endorsement of the Humanist Society, an organization of those who believe in the positive power of human potential, but not necessarily in God. The Humanist Society — like all organizations that represent nonbelievers — is not among the Department of Defense’s list of approximately 200 groups allowed to endorse chaplains.

“The military includes atheists, humanists and people with nontheistic perspectives and the military currently has no way to service them,” said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, a group supporting Heap.

It’s silly to dismiss what Heap is trying to do just because you don’t like the “chaplain” terminology. Humanist chaplains have a purpose in the military that goes beyond simply counseling:

Heap and his supporters say the push for a military Humanist chaplain goes beyond the desire for recognition. They note that when soldiers seek mental health counseling it is noted in their record and reported up the chain of command. But consultations with chaplains are confidential, making them a safe place to discuss the problems soldiers routinely face — loneliness, fear, anxiety and other personal issues.

There’s no word yet from the Department of Defense on whether or not Heap will be approved, but there’s really no good reason for them to say no. There are atheists in foxholes — and submarines and anywhere else our soldiers are stationed — and they deserve to have someone to talk to about their issues just as their religious colleagues do.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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