Rep. Lamborn’s Letter to the Navy Regarding Atheist Chaplain

March 12, 2018
Press Release

Representative Doug Lamborn (CO-05) and forty-five Members of Congress sent a letter (attached below) to the Navy urging them to reconsider appointing a secular-humanist chaplain to represent the Navy chaplain corps. The Navy Chaplain Appointment and Retention Eligibility Advisory groups has reportedly recommended Dr. Jason Heap to serve as a non-religious chaplain in the Navy.

The chaplain corps is historically a religious institution that should meet the religious needs of service members. The secular-humanist worldview that Dr. Heap ascribes to does not meet the requirements of the original designation of the role to facilitate religious belief. Not only is this a redefinition of the role, underscored by NDAA report language in 2014 and 2016, it also goes against the Supreme Court's previous ruling that non-religious beliefs are not protected by the Religion Clauses.

The letter to Chaplain Margaret Kibben and Vice Admiral Robert Burke reads in part: "The chaplain corps serves religious needs, not philosophical preferences, and the Department of Defense would be shirking its constitutional duty if it were to inappropriately expand -- and thus dilute -- the chaplain corps. The chaplaincy's religious component is core to its identity and essential to its role in fulfilling the military's constitutional obligations."

Rep. Lamborn issued the following statement on the letter:

"The military chaplain corps is a historically religious role created by then-General George Washington to serve the religious needs of our service members. It would be an offense to the millions of religious Americans bravely serving our country to install a chaplain with an avowed opposition to religion itself. Permitting this new development would directly contradict historical and legal precedent. Substituting a philosophic belief for a religious belief would erode the distinct religious function. Providing religious ministry to the Navy is critically important, and requires a person who's highly qualified in religious ministry."

Please find the letter attached below. 

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