WASHINGTON — The United States Navy has denied an application from an outspoken atheist who sought to become a chaplain to the Godless in the military.
As previously reported, 38-year-old Jason Heap submitted his application last July, noting that he had 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.
Heap told reporters at that time that a position as chaplain would be a chance for him “to give back to my country.”
“As both a humanist and a scholar of religion, I have a deep knowledge and understanding of world religions,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “My purpose and focus as a chaplain will be for holistic well-being of anyone who is in need of pastoral care.”
Many had objected to Heap’s application, calling the notion of an atheist chaplain as being 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,” Louisiana Rep. John Fleming (R) said.
“It’s just total nonsense, the idea of having a chaplain who is an atheist,” he continued. “A chaplain is a minister of the faith—someone who believes in a deity of a spiritual life who is assigned to a secular organization.”
Nearly a year after its submission, Heap’s application was recently denied. However, it remains unclear as to whether it was rejected because of Heap’s pursuit to become an atheist chaplain, or whether others were thought to be more qualified.
“Due to the highly competitive nature of the board, less than 50 percent of the applicants could be recommended for a commission in the United States Navy,” LCDR Chris Servello told conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
Regardless, a number of chaplains are applauding the Navy’s decision.
“Chaplains, historically and by definition, are people of faith,” Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, USAR retired and executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said in a statement on Friday. “You can’t have an ‘atheist chaplain’ any more than you can have a ‘tiny giant’ or a ‘poor millionaire.’
“Chaplains have been serving military members since 1775 by bringing God to soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and members of the Coast Guard,” he continued. “I am grateful that, in this decision, the Navy has honored our long tradition of providing for the spiritual needs of the men and women who serve our nation in the military.”