Right Opinion

Navy Floats Idea of Atheist Chaplains

Tony Perkins · Mar. 16, 2018

If there aren’t atheists in foxholes, why should we put them in the Chaplain Corps? Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) can’t imagine. Like most leaders, he’s astounded that the Navy is even considering letting someone who doesn’t believe in God join the chaplaincy. Three years ago, the idea was so absurd that even Obama’s military attorneys went to court to stop it. Now, with Secretary Jim Mattis at the helm, no one can quite understand why the topic is even up for discussion.

The bizarre story line started in 2015 when Jason Heap tried to sue his way into the chaplaincy. Not surprisingly, the Navy rejected him because he planned to associate with two humanist groups instead of an actual religious denomination. Ultimately, the military ended up in court defending the notion that religious leaders should serve a religious purpose. It won. But this year, Heap is trying again, and according to Sen. Wicker, the Chaplain Appointment and Retention Eligibility Advisory Group is actually recommending the Navy accept him.

Wicker, an Air Force veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is doing everything he can to keep the application from moving forward. And he’s enlisted 22 other senators and 40-plus House members to help. In two separate letters to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, both chambers explain how radically this would alter the Chaplain Corps. Obviously, the dozens of leaders explain, no one is saying that atheists don’t belong in the military. But allowing them to serve and allowing them in the pulpit are two different things.

“The Navy has sufficient authority to create programs for humanist or atheist service members,” the senators write. “The Chaplain Corps is not the appropriate place. The Chaplain Corps serves religious needs, not philosophical preferences. Approving a secular-humanist chaplain would open the door to other applicants representing other philosophical worldviews. Over time, this situation would erode the distinct religious function of the Chaplain Corps.”

The idea is even more ridiculous when you consider that barely three percent of our service members even identify as atheist or humanist. To fling open the chaplaincy to any ideology or philosophy would fundamentally change an institution that’s older than the country itself! Not to mention, the House letter reminds the Navy, that “The Department of Defense’s own guidelines also reinforce the uniquely religious purpose of the chaplain corps, defining ‘religious organization’ as ‘an entity that is organized and functions primarily to perform religious ministries to a non-military lay constituency’ and defining a religious ministry professional as ‘an individual endorsed to represent a religious organization and to conduct its religious observances or ceremonies.’”

Throughout the years, the Supreme Court has been clear, the House members go on, that “non-religious beliefs may not rely on the Religion Clauses for protection.” Groups like the American Humanist Association, which helped hatch this crazy idea, argue that nonbelievers suffer the same fear and pain that affects every service member. But isn’t that why the military has psychologists? And, as Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), a reserve Air Force chaplain, pointed out, nothing is stopping atheists from visiting the chaplains who are already available.

“No one is arguing that atheists do not have the same First Amendment rights of free expression as their neighbors of Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other faiths,” Wicker explains in a new op-ed on Fox News. “This is not the subject of scrutiny. The central question here is how an atheist chaplain can be expected to fulfill a role that, by its very nature, is supposed to serve the religious needs of our service members.” By definition, a chaplain’s duties are to offer prayer, spiritual counseling, and religious instruction. If that doesn’t disqualify a nonbeliever, I’m not sure what would!

The Trump administration inherited plenty of messes from the Obama military — but this isn’t one of them. It’s time for Secretary Mattis to step in and protect the integrity of chaplaincy.

Originally published here.

Planned Parenthood Fishes for State Funding Streams

It was well past dinner time when members of Nebraska’s famous one-chamber legislature finally called it quits on their debate. They’d been arguing for hours over a $2 million piece of their budget that had normally been reserved for Planned Parenthood. Under Barack Obama, Nebraskans didn’t have a choice about funding abortion providers. Thanks to President Trump, that’s all changed. And this state, like every other, is trying to figure out what to do next.

For Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), the choice is simple. Defund Planned Parenthood and every other abortion business and redirect the money to community health centers that won’t use the money to destroy human life. “Nebraska is a pro-life state,” he pointed out, “so our budget should reflect our values. Any organization can have access to these dollars as long as they don’t provide abortions,” he told reporters. At the moment, Title X funds 42 clinics in Nebraska, three of which perform abortions.

For Planned Parenthood, the pot of Title X money is important, since it’s one of two ways the group gets federal and state dollars. Last April, President Trump made it easier to turn off the taxpayer-funded spigot to Planned Parenthood when he put the decision of who to fund back in states’ laps. Iowa and Arizona canceled their checks to Cecile Richards’s group completely. “Thanks [to this action],” Ricketts explained, “Nebraska can now take new steps to protect unborn life by ensuring that these dollars are not used to fund abortion.”

And while liberal groups insist that Planned Parenthood doesn’t use the money for the abortion side of the business, Karen Bowling, the executive director of the Nebraska Family Alliance, can prove otherwise.

In 2015 and 2016, a Nebraska statewide audit report found that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had improperly used Title X funds for abortion services. In 2015, the sample tested in the audit showed more than $1 out of every $20 was misappropriated for abortion services. This misuse of taxpayer funds jeopardizes the entire Title X program in Nebraska, demonstrating the need for greater accountability and transparency.

In other words, Nebraska taxpayers have been directly funding abortion in violation of federal law. If that isn’t a good reason to stop funneling money to Planned Parenthood, what is? It’s lied about its care, it’s seeing fewer patients, and it’s offering fewer services. As we speak, Richards’s empire is under investigation for the illegal sale of baby body parts. So what reason has it given Nebraskans — or anyone — for trusting it with their hard-earned dollars?

Fortunately, Nebraska’s leaders had enough skepticism to keep the governor’s language until the next round of debate. By a 38-6 vote, they sent the bill over the first of three hurdles. Although it still has a ways to go, the Cornhuskers are one step closer to giving women in the state the real care they deserve. And President Trump deserves as much credit for that as anyone!

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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