Atheist Misrepresents Facts in Crusade for Atheist Chaplains

Jason Torpy, a former Army Captain and atheist leading a one-man crusade to install a humanist chaplain in the US military, has stooped to misrepresentation to support his cause.  Again.

After years of misrepresenting military demographics to claim non-theists are a substantial portion of the US military, Torpy has recently started distancing himself from his own claims — not long after a member of Congress pointed out that certain people demanding atheist chaplains

make vastly exaggerated claims about the religious demographics of the military.

Torpy’s modus operandi, however, appears to continue in his other battles.

First, Jason Torpy — who says he is the endorsing agent for Jason Heap, the man attempting to be a humanist chaplain in the US Navy — has repeatedly used selective quotations from Department of Defense regulations to claim the military is required to allow humanist chaplains.  Most recently he said [formatting original]: 

DoDI 1304.28…E3.1.3.1 requires an endorsing agency simply to be recognized as a “church” by the Internal Revenue Service…

Don’t be fooled – The Humanist Society is fully qualified under current military regulations to endorse military chaplains

But Torpy “simply” leaves out the full text of E3.1.3.1, which was already discussed but follows below [emphasis added]:

E3.1.3. The religious organization shall submit documents verifying the following information with regard to such organization:

E3.1.3.1. That the religious organization is organized as an entity functioning primarily to perform religious ministries to a non-military lay constituency and currently holds a section 501(c)(3) exempt status…as a church for Federal tax purposes from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)…Such rules stipulate that the particular religious beliefs of the organization are truly and sincerely held and that the practices and rituals associated with the organization’s religious belief or creed are not illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy…

In order to be “fully qualified,” to use Torpys term, the Humanist Society must be a religious organization, not just an IRS-recognized “church.”  It must perform “religious ministries,” including rituals of its “religious belief or creed.”  Given the difficulty of reconciling those requirements with humanism, it seems evident why Torpy conveniently leaves that out.

Is the Humanist Society a religious organization?  The Humanist Society is an “adjunct” of the American Humanist Association, and according to the AHA, its board of directors has approved the following definition for humanism:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

While the Humanist Society was founded by Quakers decades ago, any association with religion has long since disappeared.  To become a humanist “celebrant,” you have to be a member of the AHA, and you’re supposed to agree with the AHA statement.  Then you pay your fee and get your degree.  Even Torpy says

It is true that humanists are atheists, but it is not we who are making a big deal about atheism…

Again: Is the Humanist Society a religious organization?

By its own statements: No.  In fact, it is explicitly areligious, with its primary statements avoiding mentions of religion and explicitly disavowing every traditional definition (even dictionary definition) of religion.

Thus, the Humanist Society does not qualify as an endorsing agent because it is not a religious organization — despite Torpy’s claim it is “fully qualified” under DoD rules.

Therefore, Jason Torpy — who is the AHA treasurer as well as the HS endorsing agent — is either ignorantly wrong or being intentionally misleading.  Given that he’s quoting the very same sentence — and conveniently leaving out the “difficult” words — the latter seems more likely.

Second, Torpy returns to the issue of demographics. Dismissing his own claims of non-theist domination in the US military, he simply says that non-theists outnumber minority religions and, ipso facto, deserve a chaplain:

No one is saying Hindus are a minority so they don’t need their own chaplains. No one is calling for the elimination of chaplains for Christian Science (0.1% of the general population) or Judaism (0.33%).

Torpy’s attempted analogy misrepresents the status of humanism, as he conveniently ignores the fact that Hinduism, Christian Science, and Judaism — whether you agree with them or not — are considered religions.  The government’s provision of chaplains for religions does not support a claim that the government should appoint a chaplain for a non-religion.  There may very well be more chess players, motorcycle riders, and Republicans in the US military than some minority faiths.  That doesn’t mean they’re entitled to a “chaplain.”

Psychologists are often presented as an option as well, but no one suggests that Catholic or Muslim needs can be met exclusively by psychologists.

Again, Catholics and Muslims have religious rights, protected under the US Constitution, that the government accedes are best met by religious leaders in their faith.  Humanists claim they have “philosophical” needs, not religious needs, therefore they require no religious leader.

Again, this is a simple discussion:  The First Amendment protects religious exercise from government interference.  When the government does interfere (as in military service) it attempts to mitigate that restriction on liberty.  By its own explanations, even those of Torpy himself, humanism is not religious exercise.

Members of the AHA are free to practice their philosophy as they will, and their freedom to do so is not impacted by military service.  If it was, the government would be obligated to accommodate their philosophy just as much as it accommodates other non-religious groups like the Toastmasters, the chess club, and the local motorcycle club.  While liberty abounds in the United States, for the record, the US Constitution explicitly protects religious exercise, not philosophical exercise.

Integrity is still considered a virtue, and it is one that is valued in the military service.  Torpy’s reliance on misrepresentation seems to indicate he’s forgotten that virtue in the years since he left the service.

2 replies to “Atheist Misrepresents Facts in Crusade for Atheist Chaplains

  1. Priscilla Parker

    Not to mention that Heap chose the Navy because, short of a recognized endorsing agency, it’s the only branch he would qualify for. The Army and AF require a minimum of 2 years experience confirmed by the endorser, which Heap doesn’t have. Shady!

  2. David Nelson

    Is the Humanist Society the real endorser, or is it the non-church American Humanist Association (AHA)? AHA is described as the parent organization of the Humanist Society. Since a parent organization typically controls its subsidiary (Humanist Society), will the chaplains board deem the endorsement as coming from the non-qualified AHA or the Humanist Society? Will it matter that the Humanist Society is not a stand alone church, and that its assets are shown in audited statements, combined with AHA? Since the audited statements say that the Humanist Society pays a management fee to AHA to perform services for the Humanist Society, does the Humanist Society have any of it’s own employees? If not, can it in any substantive way endorse Mr. Heap? I suspect the Armed Forces Chaplains Board will want the answers to these questions. Or perhaps Mr. Heap’s application already provides answers.

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