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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FLEMING. I thank the chairman for the opportunity to speak on this important issue.

Mr. Chairman, let's examine what a chaplain really is. A chaplain is a person who is a minister of the faith, someone who ministers on the basis of a belief in a deity, a higher power, who is associated with or attached to a secular organization.

An example, right here in this House, each morning begins, each legislative day, begins with a prayer from our chaplain.

Back home, the hospital that I'm associated with, Mennen Medical Center, my good friend, a Baptist pastor, is chaplain of our hospital. And so this goes to the core of the discussion.

A chaplain is a person who is a man or woman of the faith, of conscience, of spirituality, who ministers to those with respect to a secular organization.

I just heard the gentleman say that, well, we need atheist chaplains--which, to me, is an oxymoron--we need atheist chaplains to minister to the spiritual needs of soldiers.

Well, by definition, as an atheist, he doesn't or she doesn't believe in a spiritual world. Makes no sense whatsoever.

Mr. Chairman, the courts have affirmed that chaplains are mandated by the Constitution to enable military personnel to exercise faith according to their conscience. Nontheistic chaplains, by definition, cannot assist others in worship.

For any concerns my colleague from Colorado may have as to the nonspiritual needs of servicemen and -women who do not hold any sort of faith, I would submit that the military has resources readily available. Counselors, psychologists, and social workers are happy to meet those needs.

I would also note that current chaplains will serve with respect to any servicemember, religious, nonreligious, nontheistic, atheistic or agnostic alike who comes to them, providing these brave men and women with any resources they might need in their service to the Nation. So we have chaplains and secular advisers who can help anybody who claims to be or wants to be an atheist.

Chaplains come to the military via the Department of Defense-recognized faith groups, very important. Faith groups. It would be impossible for an individual who does not belong to any faith group to receive an endorsement, much in the same way that atheists have long insisted that they are not, in fact, a faith group and would thus be implausible that they would serve as a chaplain in the military.

Mr. Chairman, General George Washington founded our Chaplain Corps on July 29, 1775, to make sure that the Continental Army could have worship services.


Mr. FLEMING. Just in summary, I would like to say this, Mr. Chairman. The saddest thing I could ever imagine is someone standing over a dying man or woman from combat and saying to them, there is no hope. If you die, there is no world, there is no life thereafter. That is the saddest thing I could ever imagine.


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