Military chaplains predate the founding of our country. As commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington ensured that chaplains were available to meet the religious needs of our nation’s soldiers. Just like today, service members were uprooted from their communities, and deployed to serve for months and years at a time. That is why our courts have confirmed that denying men and women in the military access to chaplains would violate both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
It should not even be a matter of discussion that atheists cannot fulfill the spiritual needs of our troops. There are already limited spots for chaplains in the military. Considering the broad diversity of America’s service members, not every soldier gets a chaplain of his own faith. That is why chaplains must be able to support and respect the value of religion generally and the rights of every religious believer individually. In the end, a soldier dying on the battlefield deserves to know that the chaplain coming to his aid respects his religious beliefs, and does not mock or belittle them. The Humanist Society is an atheist organization and cannot fill any religious role in the military without depriving our troops of a vital constitutional right.
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