New Humanist Lay Leader Joins Others Seeking Chaplain Support
Army Reserve Captain Ryan Jean has submitted a lay leader application at Ft Meade, Maryland. With support from The Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers and endorsement from the Humanist Society. If approved, this lay leader application will allow Ryan to work with chaplains to help out atheists and humanists on his installation. This would help to extend equal recognition and support humanists and other nontheists at Ft Meade.
Captain Jean joins Major Ray Bradley at Ft Bragg whose packet has been complete and awaiting return for over 30 days. Apparently, this packet has been sent beyond the normal decision authority at the Army’s Installation Management Command all the way to the Army’s Chief of Chaplains. This occurred last year with the original packet from Sergeant Justin Griffith. They have rejected his packet, and he has refocused on the upcoming Rock Beyond Belief event on March 31st.
These leaders have offered their personal time and put their careers at risk in a military that has not shown itself to be open to atheists and humanists. Chaplains, from top to bottom, still struggle with their responsibilities to personnel who don’t share the supernatural religious views chaplains have traditionally represented. MAAF has presented simple steps to address diversity, more comprehensive systematic changes, administrative updates, and even re-done some chaplain resources. The chaplaincy seems to be hoping the problem, the nontheists in their units, will simply go away.
There have been isolated successes, with Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings at Travis Air Force Base in California and Sergeant First Class Chris Brown at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida having been provided space to meet in Air Force chapel facilities. Petty Officer Thomas Permuy has been provided space to meet at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar chapel. This sort of open-hearted support of those with different beliefs reflects well on the chaplaincy. But with 1000 installations and ships around the world, these few successes show the uphill battle we face.
MAAF has also had significant successes at the military Academies. Cadet and Midshipmen groups are active at West Point, Annapolis (Navy), Colorado Springs (Air Force), New London (Coast Guard). In addition, each Academy offered programs for nontheists during summer training as an alternative to chaplain programs. Student groups currently do not have official recognition or funding opportunities equivalent to other student groups, and summer program alternatives have not yet been confirmed for this year. MAAF is hopeful that the Academies will expand their commitment to diversity of belief in the future.
MAAF hopes that military leaders will increase their oversight to help military chaplains attend more effectively to the growing diversity of belief in the military, including for atheists and humanists.