A would-be atheist Navy chaplain is suing over his rejected application from July 2013, claiming the military unfairly denied his application and violated his constitutional rights.
Jason Heap’s lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, is backed by the Humanist Society.
“The notion of an atheist chaplain is nonsensical; it’s an oxymoron,” said Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican and sponsor of a 2013 amendment to block atheist chaplains, Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.
Mr. Heap possesses degrees from Texas Christian University and Oxford University, but believes humans can lead an ethical life without believing in God, the paper reported.
“Historically, that word has meant someone who represents a spiritual, faith-based denomination and/or religious group, who provides ministry from a faith-based perspective to members of the armed forces,” Ron Crews, executive director of the Washington-based Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Stars and Stripes. “That’s what chaplains have done since our founding in 1775. A humanist does not meet the criteria.”
Mr. Heaps lawsuit asserts that 3.6 percent of military identify as humanists and that their needs are not being served. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and a number of other Department of Defense officials are listed in the lawsuits as defendants, Stars and Stripes reported.
“As a result of the Navy’s decision to deny Dr. Heap’s application, there are no Humanist chaplains in the U.S. Navy or in any branch of the armed services,” the lawsuit said, according to Stars and Stripes. “The absence of even a single Humanist chaplain impairs the religious exercise of Humanists in the Navy.”
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