Jason Heap is challenging convention but he’s on the right track and may either a) help a lot of troops or b) give the lie to a longtime hypocrisy of the services:
Heap is a humanist who doesn’t believe in God, and the U.S. military has never sanctioned a humanist chaplain.
The Navy is holding him at arms’ length but there’s no good reason he couldn’t do a great job as a chaplain. I always got along well with my chaplains, even if I didn’t believe in their particular religion. In some ways it may have been a challenge for them since I was always willing to talk religion, if not accept all their statements at face value. One of my favorites told me I was the “best closet Christian” he’d ever seen and another tried to convince me that the Mormon’s inner temple (or something) held occult like magical instruments that would fascinate me. I didn’t turn there and never saw inside the temple. David Zucchino’s article in the LA Times points out that
More than 13,000 service members identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, according to a Pentagon survey this year. That’s more than the number of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in the military combined, yet each of those religions has its own chaplains.
But, in an era where conventional religion has much less of a hold on our troops but the chaplains’ duties have expanded and become even more necessary (they are trusted counselors at almost every level in the military), the Congress is working to slant the Chaplain Corps to their own, narrow, ends by passing laws that would seem to flaunt the Constitution.