Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) on Atheist Chaplains in the Military: ‘That Was a Dumb Idea’

Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX) — the guy who believes fetuses can masturbate — is one of the representatives who voted (twice) to deny non-religious people like Jason Heap from joining the military chaplaincy.

Daniel Moran attended a town hall event with Burgess yesterday and asked him about those votes.

Instead of offering a rational explanation as to why he voted that way, Burgess essentially dismissed the idea of non-religious chaplains, showing in the process a complete lack of understanding as to why they’re needed:

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Marine Corps Training Document Suggests That Atheists Are Suicide Risks

The United States Marine Corps’ training manual for commanders (PDF) has a very interesting section regarding how to recognize when soldiers are at risk for suicide. They should look out for soldiers who recently suffered a breakup, soldiers whose family history includes members who committed suicide, soldiers who have serious financial concerns, soldiers who have lost their spiritual faith, soldiers who have a past or current substance abuse problem, soldiers who—-wait, what?!

The manual cited “lack or loss of spiritual faith” as a subset of one of the 11 factors that could increase the risk of suicide. Specifically it was a subset of the “Guidance/Moral Compass” category, a detail that’s equally problematic.

The factor would put all atheist soldiers on The List; that sort of stigma could eventually prevent them from getting promotions or certain assignments:

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He Shouldn’t Have to Say ‘So Help Me God’ At His Graduation Today

***Update***: Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers tells me that the situation has been resolved and Bise will receive both a secular written form and take a secular oath. More information on “So Help Me God” oath issues can be found here.

The American Humanist Association responds:

Air Force officials have agreed to administer a secular oath and to allow a revision of the written oath the Officer Trainee was required to sign to remove the “so help me God” reference. Maj. Stewart L. Rountree has written attorneys for the American Humanist Association and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers that the entire graduating class will be informed of the option to take a secular oath and apologized for the error. “Our previous legal advisors were mistaken in advising us that it was required,” Maj. Roundtree wrote. “Our current legal advisors made me aware and we will ensure it reaches all corners of our program.”

Today, Jonathan Bise will become an officer in the United States Air Force. However, he’s been told he will have to say an oath with the phrase “so help me God” in order to graduate — no substitutions allowed. As a non-religious person, the government can’t make anyone take a pledge like that, and the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is trying to put a stop to it before it’s too late:

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Christian Show Host: Atheist Chaplains Would Just Tell Wounded Soldiers To Kill Themselves

Atheist groups have been pushing hard lately for the military to accept Humanist chaplains. So far, they’ve said no.

Congress joined them, but in addition to saying no, House members offered their reasons — and those reasons were complete bullshit:

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Navy Employee Told He Can’t Get Married in a Government Chapel Because He’s Not a Christian

Ensign Sean A. Cruz is an active-duty officer who graduated last year from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. He likes the place so much that he asked for permission to get married there. To be precise, he would like to tie the knot in the Naval Academy’s Main Chapel:

The Chapel’s wedding coordinator, Claire MacCallum, asked Cruz to submit an application, and eight weeks after he did, she turned him down. The reason? Cruz, his name notwithstanding, is not a Christian. He had told MacCallum that he had chosen Jason Torpy to do the ceremony; Torpy is the president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and a registered Humanist celebrant in Maryland (as well as an occasional contributor to this site). Cruz is also a MAAF member and a Humanist, so the request makes a lot of sense.

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