Family Research Council

July 24, 2013 - Wednesday

Atheist Chaplains: Seeing Isn't Believing!

Atheists aren't just looking for a platform in the military -- they're looking for a pulpit. In one of the more bizarre storylines from the Defense debate, a handful of House Democrats have been working to establish a chapter of non-believing chaplains in the ranks. So far, two representatives -- Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) -- have introduced measures to create "non-theist" chaplains, only to see them flame out in committee. Groups like the Secular Coalition, who helped hatch this crazy idea, argue that nonbelievers suffer the same fear and pain that affects every service member.

But isn't that why the military has psychologists? And, as Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who is a reserve Air Force chaplain, pointed out, nothing is stopping atheists from visiting the chaplains who are already available. In fact, Collins said he's counseled several non-believers over the years. "What I have found so many times [is that] people in our world today just need someone to listen," he said.

The fact that Congress is even debating the idea of creating non-faith faith leaders is a sign of how absurd this debate about religious liberty has become. By definition, a chaplain's duties are to offer prayer, spiritual counseling, and religious instruction. If that doesn't disqualify a non-believer, I'm not sure what would! Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), one of the many members flabbergasted that Congress is wasting its time on this, told Fox News, "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. It's just total nonsense, the idea of having a chaplain who is an atheist."

Atheist chaplains are like vegetarian carnivores. They don't exist! In reality, what secularists are angling for is a position of greater influence. If the military were to expand the chaplaincy to atheists, it would give anti-Christian extremists like Mikey Weinstein an even greater opportunity to sanitize the military -- this time, from inside the chaplain corps.

Fortunately, Congressman Fleming knows how the Left operates. As part of the floor debate on the Defense budget bill yesterday (watch his remarks here), Rep. Fleming attached language that would ensure that federal funds aren't used to appoint chaplains who don't have an endorsing agency. In other words, candidates for chaplaincy would have to be officially affiliated with a specific faith. His amendment, one of 100 the House considered in Tuesday's mark-up, coasted through the vote thanks to 26 Democrats -- who helped pad the 253-173 margin.

Interestingly enough, this debate happens to coincide with a new study about the drop in worldwide atheism. Researchers just released four decades of data on "Christianity in Its Global Context, 1970-2010" and found that the world is more religious now than it was last century. "If this trend continues," the report suggests, "agnostics and atheists will be a smaller portion of the world's population in 2020 than they were in 2010." If atheism is declining, why should its influence increase? Good question -- one that Congress should ponder before it panders to more extremists.

The Changing of the (Air National) Guard

The world may be becoming more religious, but the military certainly isn't. TSgt. Layne Wilson found that out the hard way when he was reprimanded for his Christian views on marriage. The Air National Guardsman, whose story we highlighted last week, thought his nightmare was finally over when the Guard agreed to honor his six-year contract extension. The military, which tried to leverage Layne's health care insurance to bully him into a lesser contract, surrendered when word got out about his wife's stage four breast cancer.

After backing down, it seems Layne's superiors are still doing their best to drive the 27-year veteran out of the service. While Wilson was well within his rights to oppose a same-sex "wedding" at the West Pointchapel (the Defense of Marriage Act was still the law of New York when he did), the Utah Guard refuses to rescind his reprimand. On the contrary, his commanding officers informed Layne that they're opening a "security information file" based on his private Facebook postings and are also "reviewing his security clearance." In the meantime, Layne is forbidden from accessing his military email account.

His attorney, John Wells, expected as much. "Once the military puts a target on your back, they continue to push until they win or are told by a higher authority to stop," he writes. "This data mining is typical of the action taken during this Administration. It appears to be an attempt to force everyone to conform with the politically correct left-wing military the President is striving to create. Security clearances are a favorite target when trying to destroy a subordinate's career."

Obviously, the Guard is trying to make an example of Layne and send a message that the natural view of marriage won't be tolerated in Obama's military. Once again, this underscores the urgency of Rep. Fleming's other amendment in the Defense bill -- protecting the free speech and conscience rights of our troops. Otherwise, Layne's story will be the first of many.

** Can one county clerk stop California from imposing same-sex "marriage" on the whole state? Ken Kluwkoski gives his insight on the case in his new Breitbart piece, "San Diego Clerk Sues over Gay Marriage." Also, FRC's Bob Morrison was as disturbed as most Americans when he saw the Boston bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone. See what he has to say about the controversy in his new piece, "Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs's Rolling Stone Crime and Punishment."

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

More Washington Updates »