Are atheist military chaplains a good idea? A Texas congressman (along with most of his colleagues) doesn’t think so.
Rep. Michael Burgess voted twice against a proposal for atheist chaplains in the U.S. military, and he was recently confronted about his vote by Daniel Moran at a public meeting.
Moran, described as an atheist activist, is a junior at the University of North Texas majoring in political science.
Moran respectfully asked the Republican lawmaker — who is also a medical doctor — how he planned to represent his secular, atheist, humanist, and non-religious constituents given his recent vote. Burgess responded that he represented all his constituents regardless of whether they voted for him or believe as he does.
As far as the vote against the atheist chaplains idea (which went down to defeat in the House), Burgess responded matter-of-factly to thunderous applause that “yeah, I thought it was a dumb idea. I’ll do it again.”
The two men then disagreed over whether there are atheists in foxholes, after which Rep. Burgess commented that “look… if you’re going to have a chaplain, you gotta start somewhere, and that stars at the top with a belief in God.” Moran disagreed that serving as a chaplain required a belief in God (watch the whole exchange embedded above).
Servicemembers of course do have access to counselors and mental health professionals without regard to religion.
That being said, according to Dictionary.com, a chaplain is defined as “an ecclesiastic attached to the chapel of a royal court, college, etc., or to a military unit.”
Ecclesiastic is defined as “a member of the clergy or other person in religious orders.”
So even if you are an atheist or agnostic, wouldn’t it thus seem logical that religious belief is indeed a prerequisite to serving as a military chaplain?
Congressman Burgess, who is an obstetrician by training, got into some hot water in June for that whole “masturbating fetus” comment. He was elected to Congress in 2002 and has represented the 26th district of Texas ever since.
Putting aside your own religious faith, if any, do you think that there should be chaplains serving in the military who are atheists?