The Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF) held a fundraiser and appreciation reception on Monday, June 8th. People from all branches of the armed forces who have either served or are currently serving were in attendance, as well as people from the American Humanist Association, and the Center for Inquiry. Addressing the attendees, Major Ryan Jean spoke of his experiences of honorable service, but that there are times that he needed to have chaplain support to discuss issues from a non-theistic perspective—something that he has yet to have the right to access. Concluding the evening’s events, UnitedCoR’s Executive Director spoke of the strong connections shared by local MAAF chapters with various local CoRs, and he provided examples of how local nontheists-in-uniform have continuously raised their visibility through service projects and other forms of community outreach.
The case regarding UnitedCoR’s Executive Director’s application to become the first Humanist-endorsed chaplain in the history of the US military continued through the hearing on June 18th. Chicago CoR’s coordinator, Hemant Mehta, wrote an informative article the day after the hearing, describing that the decisions to reject Heap’s application was more of an exercise in maintaining the status quo and maintaining religious privilege rather than establishing diversity within the chaplaincy. Covering the hearing, the Military Times wrote that the Navy lawyers said the Defense Department has never properly ruled on whether to recognize Humanism as an official religion because no individual chaplain applicant has ever cleared the initial screening process that rejected Heap. Those opposed to Humanist chaplains also made their opinions known to the public.
Less than a week after the hearing, MAAF reported an alleged enforced Christian prayer at Air Assault training in Ft. Campbell, KY where attendees in the video were required to bow their heads and respond with what sounded like “Amen.” It seems as if, now more than ever before, there is a time for the non-theist community to rally in support of people like Major Jean, UnitedCoR’s Executive Director, Jason Torpy of the MAAF, Chief Petty Officer Doug Wright and others who are prepared to take a public stand for Humanism as a sincerely-held belief in the United States military as well as with our allies and partners in countries such as The Netherlands.