Jason Heap, who earned degrees from the UK's Oxford University and Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, before abandoning his faith in favor of secular humanism, had applied to the Navy in 2013 to become a non-religious chaplain. At the time, he explained to the Los Angeles Times that as “both a humanist and a scholar of religion, I have a deep knowledge and understanding of world religions. My purpose and focus as a chaplain will be for holistic well-being of anyone who is in need of pastoral care.”
But the Navy's chief of chaplains thought differently, concluding that the 38-year-old Heap's education and credentials did not qualify him to dispense spiritual counsel to military personnel. A spokesman for the Navy explained that even with a proper religious worldview, Heap's chances at making the cut for Navy chaplaincy wouldn't have been stellar. “Due to the highly competitive nature of the board, less than 50 percent of the applicants could be recommended for a commission in the United States Navy,” said LCDR Chris Servello in a statement.
According to an earlier Fox report, a group calling itself the Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers had been incubating a plan for some time to pressure the Defense Department into allowing an atheist chaplain, with the group originally prepared to front its own president, Jason Torpy, as the candidate of choice. “The chaplaincy risks much if they declare themselves available only to those who profess a God belief,” Torpy told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. “That noble mission should not shrink to 'God only' when a humanist comes calling.”
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