House Republicans Block Effort To Allow Atheist Chaplains, Say They Would ‘Make A Mockery’ Of The Chaplain Corps (VIDEO)

Representative Rob Andrews D-NJ

Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ). Photo from Philly.Com.

It was a noble effort by Rep. Rob Andrews, D-NJ, to make sure that atheists were represented in the military chaplaincy. And it was an effort that was met with ridicule and downright stupidity by his Republican colleagues.

On Wednesday, Rep. Andrews introduced the following amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act:


The Secretary of Defense shall provide for the appointment, as officers in the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces, of persons who are certified or ordained by non-theistic organizations and institutions, such as humanist, ethical culturalist, or atheist.

Finally, someone in Washington recognizes that there are soldiers who do not identify with any religion (23% identify as “no religious preference”), and Pat Tillman was one famous example of a non-religious, and very brave, soldier. Atheist and other non-theistic service members would equally like to utilize the services of the chaplain in times of need. Chaplains not only provide spiritual guidance, but are also a source of help when a service member is seeking counseling outside of the medical community, temporary assistance for such things as food or gas money or help paying the rent. But, often, atheist service members feel excluded from this kind of assistance, especially counseling, because it would be akin to going to a church leader when you neither believe nor belong to that church.

But Republicans can’t seem to understand that atheists are human, with human values, and human beliefs, and not callous, heartless people. So they not only blocked the amendment, they laughed at it. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-TX, had this to say in a hearing:

“You can’t use the word “chaplain” with atheists because they don’t believe anything. They don’t believe in a faith[…] I can’t imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family’s home to let them have the worst news of their life, and this guy say ‘You know, you’re it– that’s it, your son’s ju — worms, I mean, worm food.”

Do republicans really think that little of humanity that they actually believe this would be a real scenario? Rep. John Fleming, R-LA, said this:

“I think this would make a mockery of the chaplaincy. The last thing in the world we would want to see is a young soldier who may be dying, and they’re at a field hospital, and the chaplain is standing over that person saying to them, ‘If you die here, there’s no hope for you in the future.’ That’s the last thing in the world I want to hear.”

Here’s the video:

But think about it this way. As of right now, if that young soldier dying in the field hospital, or that family receiving word of their loved one’s combat death, is atheist, there is no chaplain to represent them. Take myself for example; I am atheist, so is my husband. He is a soldier in the Army who has served three tours in Iraq. If something had happened to him over there, and I’m hurting, the last thing I want is some chaplain who would come and try to comfort me by telling me that he’s gone off to a better place that I don’t believe in. I don’t want to hear that God has taken him in his glory. I don’t believe that. So who will be there for those like me? No one.

And if my husband should be in the position of the dying soldier, the last thing he would want to hear a chaplain doing his best to comfort him with ideas that he doesn’t believe in. He would rather not have a chaplain with him at all. But as a service member, dying for his country, wouldn’t he deserve to have a kind heart there to help him deal with tough emotions without the shadow of religion standing between them?

As far as Republicans are concerned, the answer is no. And because they control the House Armed Services Committee, the chaplaincy will remain off-limits to atheists.