This page has information for chaplains, for nontheists who want to work with chaplains, and for other leaders. This includes materials for use in chaplain offices, military lay leader certification for active duty, prior military, and civilians, and humanist chaplaincy endorsement processes. Within this page, you will find the following:
Also consider the following resources:
Dear Chaplain: This page and the assistance we offer is outreach to help you help military personnel who seek a secular approach and a nontheist community. While MAAF has run into chaplains interested solely in spreading their own ideas or just doing a Sunday service for their own denomination, we have confidence that that is not the norm and that chaplains in general are sincerely interested in providing support to all service members on the terms of that service member. We’re here to help with information and materials. You know there are nontheists in your unit. Do they come to you for help? Would you really understand their position and community enough to point them in the right direction? Let us help you. Just as importantly, let us show our community that chaplains are willing and able to support atheists and humanists.
If you are unfamiliar with Humanism, consider the following short explanation: Scientific naturalism sees the lens of science as the best way to understand the world, assigning certainty only according to the weight of evidence. Humanists are skeptical of evidence through any source, especially revelation, tradition, or authority. Right actions follow from an ultimate value of human-flourishing, human-based rational ethics and our evolved empathy and instincts as social animals. Tools such as deontology, virtue ethics, consequentialism, and utilitarianism are used in concert to create a solid foundation for ethical action in any given situation. A humanist makes meaning in life by viewing the world through the lens of scientific naturalism, acting according to human-based, rational ethics, and by seeking lasting personal fulfillment through the advancement of oneself, one’s community, and humanity.
Humanists are also atheists, but that’s not really the point. Several important stories below lay out issues of belief and policy in more detail:
- Open letter to chaplains, Oct 29, 2011
- Playing Favorites: What beliefs should chaplains support?, Apr 23, 2012
- Humanist Lay Leader/DFGL Feature, Mar 19, 2012
- What do we mean by humanism (FAQ)
- Chaplain services website reform, Sep 22, 2011
- Open letter to chaplain endorsers, Jun 22, 2011
Minimum Statement of Support
The following statement is the core of the MAAF Chaplain Outreach Program and is intended to be a minimum standard of commitment to equal treatment of all service members as well as respect for religious diversity within the military. Chaplains are invited to sign this statement as a way of overcoming misconceptions about religious discrimination within the Chaplains Corps. This perception of discrimination relates both to chaplains against nontheist service members as well as intolerant chaplains against chaplains who want to be supportive. Signing onto the statement can help to overcome both perceptions. Service members can invite Chaplains to sign this statement as a sign of respect to those of all beliefs. MAAF also offers to assist chaplains in reconciling with nontheistic service members or commanders who may be intolerant of chaplains due to religion. Chaplains and chaplain offices are invited to publicly show support by contacting MAAF. MAAF equally seeks feedback from any chaplain unwilling to sign on for any reason.
Nontheistic service members including atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and others identifying as nontheists serve honorably within our nation’s military. Chaplains should support nontheistic service members with the same enthusiasm, resources, and services that they provide for theistic service members. Leaders should not use their position to influence individuals or the chain of command to adopt the leader’s own personal religion. These are minimum standards of conduct to which all service members, especially chaplains and commanders, should adhere.
Below is a growing list of current chaplain endorsing agencies that agree in principle to our Minimum Statement of Support or who have acted in accordance with our call for endorser support. No matter how many humanist chaplains there may eventually be, all chaplains should be willing and able to serve humanists. These endorsing agencies are leading the way to improved diversity, accommodation, and free exercise of religion and belief for all:
Alliance of Baptists | Christian Science | Interfaith Alliance | Sacred Well Congregation | Coalition of Spirit-Filled Churches | Society for Humanistic Mormonism | Swedenborgian Church | Unitarian Universalist Association
Below are organizations that signed onto a more restrictive ‘pledge’ version that preceded this ‘minimum standard’ version:
American Atheists, American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance International, Center for Atheism, Council for Secular Humanism, Institute for Humanist Studies, Internet Infidels, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Society for Humanistic Mormonism
Apply to be a Humanist Lay Leader or Chaplain
MAAF Endorses on behalf of the following humanist organizations who hold IRS “church” tax exemptions: Humanist Society, American Ethical Union
*** If you are currently a military chaplain or chaplain candidate interested in switching endorsement, please contact MAAF as soon as possible. Your confidentiality will be maintained ***
You can make a huge difference being a leader in the humanist community (and this applies to atheists, freethinkers, and other nontheists). Being a lay leader requires commitment to humanism and a continuing commitment to personal moral, emotional, and intellectual development. As a certified representative, you can work with the military, veterans affairs, hospitals, and other institutions to support atheists and humanists. While this program is tailored for the military, civilians can apply to work with the military and this program can be easily adapted to veterans affairs hospitals or even civilian institutions. You will interact with chaplains or other religious or behavioral health personnel to reserve a space, organize events, and facilitate discussions with other humanists on your installation, ship, or your local area.
While humanists do not generally identify as “religious” or as a “faith group”, humanism and atheism represent core values, character, personal identity, and community. Each branch of service provides for chaplains to utilize current or former military or civilians to better provide for military personnel. These personnel are called “lay leaders”. In many institutions, including Veterans Affairs and civilian hospitals, both paid staff and volunteer leaders are employed as chaplains to provide services related to core values and beliefs. This provides the opportunity for MAAF members to work directly within chaplaincy services to provide resources, command recognition, and post advertisements to help build our community.
The application process starts the same for everyone, as a “Lay Leader” and using that information and that first step, you can also apply for more rigorous and formal chaplain positions, including being a Army, Navy, or Air Force Chaplain officer, or as a Veterans Affairs chaplain. This requires a commitment to personal development and some levels of certification require specialized university education and professional certifications. Whatever your interest is, you can start here to connect with MAAF. Feel free to contact MAAF to ask any initial questions you may have.
Expectation of MAAF leaders:
- Commitment to Scientific naturalism and human-based rationalistic ethics as well as willingness to serve fellow atheists and humanists
- Understanding: Lay leaders are expected to be a positive representation of humanism, with enough background and understanding to represent humanism well.
- Leadership: Military or civilian leadership experience to ensure the ability to organize local events facilitate group meetings.
- Application: Complete the application process, including membership, questionnaire, and references.
- Military Chaplain requirements: Lay leaders require dedication more than anything, but those interested in military chaplaincy will need to work up to high standards including a single 72-hour graduate accredited university degree in a related field, two years of congregational leadership experience, and must be age 40 or lower.
Simply join MAAF for information about the process, or contact MAAF and request an application if you are already a member.
Although the military chaplains should be able to service counseling needs, there are a number of services MAAF recommends for the needs of nontheist service members.
Official Chaplain Headquarters
The following addresses are provided for members and supporters to communicate this program to chaplain leaders to encourage them to contact MAAF for training development, materials, and better support of nontheists.
- Chief of the Chaplain Service, HQ USAF HC, 1380 AF Pentagon Rm 4E260, Washington, DC 20330-1380, 571-256-7729, BG Howard Stendall (ELCA), as of Jul 2012, MG Cecil Richardson retired Jul 2012
- Army Chief of Chaplains DACH-ZA, 2700 Army Pentagon Rm 3E524, Washington, DC 20310-2700, 703-695-1133, MG Donald Rutherford (Roman Catholic), as of Jul 2012, BG (Charles) Ray Bailey (UMC), MG Douglas Carver (SBC) retired Jul 2012
- Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains, 2000 Navy Pentagon Rm 5E270, Washington, DC 20350-2000, 703-614-4043, RADM Mark Tidd as of Aug 2010 (Chair of AFCB as of Jul 2012), RADM Margaret Kibben, RADM Robert Burt retired Aug 2010
- Armed Forces Chaplains Board, 4000 Defense Pentagon Rm 2E341, Washington, DC 20301-4000, 703-697-9015, Executive Director AF Col Jerry Pitts, as of Jul 2012, preceded by Army COL Steve Moon
- Chief, CAP Chaplain Service HQ CAP-USAF/HC, 105 S Hansell St, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6332, 877-227-9142 ext 418, Col Charles Sharp