U.S. Army to Recognize Humanism as a ‘Religious Preference’

Military chaplainWASHINGTON — The United States Army has announced that it will now recognize humanism under its list of religious preferences for military personnel.

According to the Religion News Service (RNS), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the Pentagon in February, requesting that humanists in the military be able to cite the term as their religious preference. It wrote on behalf of Army Major Ray Bradley, who had been seeking to cite humanism as his preferred belief system in his military records for years, but was unable to do so.

Bradley said that while he switched his religious affiliation from “no religious preference” to “atheist” a few years ago, he does not identify as an atheist. The ACLU said that the term “humanist” more closely described Bradley’s beliefs, but was not on the Army’s list of religious preferences.

“‘Atheist’ only says what I’m not,” Bradley stated. “Humanist is what I am. It is how I live my life. The principles of humanism guide me through life’s challenges and provide me with a sense of purpose to experience life to its fullest. Atheism does neither.”

Humanism is a belief system that places man at the center, focusing on human accomplishments and goals, and working toward the happiness and fulfillment of mankind.

While it is not known whether the change was made as a result of the ACLU’s letter, effective this month, humanism will now be recognized in the Army’s religious “preference code.” The ACLU said that recognizing humanists in the Army was important for equality.

“Our diverse military requires the Armed Forces to act with open-mindedness and tolerance toward increasingly varied systems of belief,” the organization stated. “Adding humanism to the list of religious preferences would be a simple step toward creating a climate of equality and acceptance for non-theistic members of the military.”

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Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, made similar comments to RNS after learning of the addition to the code.

“This is a big victory,” he stated. “This is one part, and the easiest part, of a very long list of other reforms that have to happen before we have equality, not just belief or no belief but theistic belief and non-theistic belief like ours.”

While some have stated that the change may now open the door for the allowance of humanist chaplains, as previously reported, Congress approved an amendment last year that reinforced the military’s ban on non-theistic chaplains.

“Since General George Washington instituted the military chaplaincy, chaplains have served a vital role in serving the spiritual needs of our Armed Forces,” stated bill sponsor Senator John Fleming (R-LA). “It is absurd to argue that someone with no spiritual inclination should fill that role, especially when it could well mean that such an individual would take the place of a true chaplain who has been endorsed by a religious organization.”

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