(Washington, DC, April 28, 2011) Leadership at the American Humanist Association expressed frustration with comments made by Paul Vicalvi, executive director of National Association of Evangelicals Chaplain Commission, who brusquely dismissed the need for atheists and humanists serving as military chaplains, believing that humanists don’t qualify to serve as chaplains in the military and atheists are a “militant minority … specifically against evangelical Christianity.” The remarks were made in response to a recent New York Times article reporting the growing non-believer chaplaincy movement within the military.
“Vicalvi’s comments are an insult to all humanists and atheists serving in our U.S. military,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This ignorance and exclusion is a shining example of the religious discrimination faced by non-theists within the military on a daily basis.”
Vicalvi claimed that the chaplain role is already filled by military psychologists and counselors, going on to note that Christian chaplains were also capable of handling the “spiritual and emotional” requirements of non-theists on active duty.
“Traditionally chaplains are seen as a person of a higher power faith. It would redefine the chaplaincy if a non-faith person becomes a chaplain,” Vicalvi told the Christian Post.
Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and a board member of the American Humanist Association, said, “Vicalvi talks about diversity but belies his ignorance by labeling us as a ‘militant minority.’ His attempt to pawn atheists off on military psychologists and counselors is simply disrespectful of the duties and services military chaplains provide. If he is truly supportive, he will direct his chaplains to reach out to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers for information and materials that will help them to help humanists and atheists within their command.”
In January, the American Humanist Association called attention to the United State’s Army’s Global Assessment Tool, used within the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. The tool, which is meant to measure various levels of each soldier’s daily functionality, unfairly targets humanists, atheists and other nontheists as dysfunctional in regard to their “spirituality” assessment scores.
Speckhardt concluded, “How are humanists and atheists in the military expected to feel respected and understood when chaplain leadership denies the legitimacy of their needs?”
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.