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Outspoken Atheist Seeks Position as U.S. Navy Chaplain

  • Religion Today
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2013 Jul 24
  • Comments

An outspoken atheist is generating controversy in his pursuit of a position as an official United States Navy chaplain, the Christian News Network reports. In applying for the chaplain position, 38-year-old Jason Heap points out that he earned master's degrees from both Oxford University and Brite Divinity School, with substantial experience in human resources. He also successfully completed the necessary paperwork and all the required physical tests. However, in order to be accepted as a Navy chaplain, all applicants must receive endorsements from religious organizations approved by the military. According to the Department of Defense website, this list of "ecclesiastical endorsing agents" includes representatives from over 200 different denominations and organizations. Although the majority of agents would be considered Christian, several other religions are included, such as Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Unitarianism. Heap claims that because he is endorsed by the Humanist Society, he should be offered the chaplain position, but the Navy does not recognize the Humanist Society as an endorsing agent. Humanists assert that well over 10,000 active servicemen identify as atheist or agnostic, and therefore, there should be like-minded chaplains available. Along those lines, Heap says that a position as chaplain would be a chance for him "to give back to my country. ... I want to use my skills on behalf of our people in the service. Hopefully, the Navy will see where I can be useful." Reaction to Heap's pursuit has been mixed. Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana told Fox News that he thinks the notion of having secular military chaplains is absurd. "When it comes to the idea of an atheist chaplain, which is an oxymoron -- it's self-contradictory -- what you're really doing is now saying that we're going to replace true chaplains with non-chaplain chaplains," he said.