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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. FLEMING. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 1 minute.

My amendment is fairly simple. The DOD is permitted to appoint military chaplains--individuals who minister to the spiritual needs of any and all members of the armed services--in accordance with the current DOD policy. Chaplains must possess appropriate educational credentials, 2 years of religious leadership experience, and, more importantly, must receive an endorsement from a qualified religious organization attesting to the tenets of the endorser's faith.

In June, the Members of this body--Democrats and Republicans alike--twice affirmed that the military is not permitted to appoint atheist chaplains. Despite these recent votes and by completely bypassing Congress--the voice of the people--and current DOD standards, it has been confirmed that the military is considering the possibility of appointing an atheist chaplain. Since the formation of the chaplaincy in 1775, chaplains have been affiliated with faith and spirituality. By definition, chaplains minister to the spiritual needs of our men and women in the armed services--a vital function that an individual without any inclination towards spirituality would not be able to perform.

I would like to thank my colleagues--Representatives FORBES, BRIDENSTINE, JORDAN, PITTS, and LANKFORD--for their support of this amendment.

I would urge all of my colleagues to support the chaplaincy of the U.S. military, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. FLEMING. Mr. Chairman, first of all, with all due respect to my good friend from Colorado, there is no way that an atheist chaplain or atheist whatever can minister to the spiritual needs of a Christian or a Muslim, or a Jew, for that matter.

As a result, that is the whole problem here. When you're talking about a chaplain, what are you talking about? How do we define chaplain? A chaplain is a person who ministers to spiritual needs, but who is assigned to a secular organization. The military is 99.9 percent secular. The only thing that we add to it that is nonsecular is the chaplaincy.

Also, I would say to you is that there is a limited number of chaplains. And if we begin to displace chaplains who are actually from religious organizations with those who are atheists, who do not believe in spirituality or a deity, then that's going to limit even the number that's going to be available to the others.

It's nonsensical. It's an oxymoron. But as I've said before, and I'll say this again, remember that an atheist is a person who does not believe in a deity, does not believe in a spiritual world. It's impossible for that person through his or her beliefs or training to minister to the spiritual needs of somebody who does.

In the final analysis, I believe that an atheist chaplain would be the last person in the world that we would want for a dying soldier who needs that last moment of counseling in their life.

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