Group Tries to Stoke Controversy over Atheist Chaplain

Update: Jason Torpy revived the issue enough to generate a Navy Times article, though it contained no new information.  In fact, a Navy official reiterated a point made below — even humanists can’t really put bounds on a definition of “humanism:”

“Humanism’s not a defined term across the country,” the official said. “There’s a group of Jewish Humanists. The Humanist Society was once the Humanist Society of Friends, a Quaker organization.”

The official, referring to Heap, continued: “I don’t know that he represents a religious organization by any accepted definition.”


Tom Carpenter, a former Marine pilot and one of the founders of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy — the homosexual advocacy group that lobbied for the repeal of DADT — has attacked the Navy chaplaincy for not approving the chaplaincy application of Jason Heap, a self-described non-theistic humanist. Tragically, if not predictably, Carpenter seems to base his attack on “evidence” that does not exist [emphasis added]:

…The Navy Chief of Chaplains rejected the application of Jason Heap, a highly qualified chaplain candidate who would have been the first Humanist military chaplain. All the evidence leads invariably to the conclusion this decision was based upon a Constitutionally prohibited “religious test.”

What public evidence is there the Navy rejected the application based on a “religious test?” None whatsoever.

Carpenter implies — repeatedly — the Navy rejected Heap because he was a non-religious humanist. Yet he admits the Navy declined to give a reason either for Heap’s rejection or for the rejection of any other chaplain candidate. (The Navy said less than 50% were accepted.) In other words, either Carpenter has an inside track to the deliberations of the Navy, which he doesn’t assert, or he’s simply making up the “evidence” of his claim.

In the vein of the greats like Michael “Mikey” Weinstein and his assistant Chris Rodda, Carpenter is trying to stoke a controversy to keep Heap in the public conversation. Like his allies at the MRFF, Carpenter is willing to play loose with the truth to further his agenda. After all, Carpenter’s success depends on controversy. If the Navy won’t provide it, it seems he will.

Most comically, however, was Carpenter’s conclusion, in which he said the Navy was inhibiting the religious liberty of non-religious sailors by failing to admit a non-religious chaplain [emphasis added]:

[The Navy] is not just turning its back on Mr. Heap, but is also denying the religious liberty of tens of thousands of sailors and Marines, as well as their families who identify as Humanist, agnostic and atheist. These service members and their families are entitled to the kind of chaplain who will understand their problems, treat them with dignity and respect and not try to convert them — a Humanist chaplain like Jason Heap.

Ironically, Carpenter’s claims are rebutted even by one of those very humanists he’s talking about: US Army Major Ray Bradley, who was the face of Jason Torpy’s fight for a “humanist” label in the Army.  Bradley agrees that “atheist chaplain is an oxymoron.”  Even as a non-theistic humanist, Bradley said

A-theism is antithetical to the idea of chaplaincy…

Besides, contrary to Carpenter’s lamentations, those “tens of thousands” of sailors and their families have adequate access to people who will “understand their problems” and treat them with respect. Those “thousands” can choose to go to a chaplain, who is a representative of a religious faith and may — or may not — bring up religion. Or, those “thousands” can go to any of a variety of other resources, including, for example, Military Family Life Consultants, who can provide precisely the support Carpenter claims the Navy is denying them — all without religion.

Even if such support did not exist, as it does now in abundance, Carpenter never explains why he wants the government to insert a non-religious person into a religious field — a discrepancy retired Chaplain (Col) Ron Crews points out. If Heap wants to serve the needs of troops without religion, he can always join the military as a counselor.

Why would a non-religious person demand to be categorized with a religious title?

Why, indeed?

Also at The Blaze.

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