Forum on the Military Chaplaincy

committed to free and diverse religious expression

We, the undersigned, support this statement of principle which calls on our national leaders to assure that military chaplains can adequately address the needs of the men and women in the Armed Services by providing support to humanists and other nontheists and by accepting otherwise qualified chaplain candidates who represent nontheistic beliefs.

STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLE: Time to Embrace a Chaplaincy for All the Troops
View or download a PDF of the current version of the statement of principle signed (as of 10/3, 8PM), statement of principle with wording only, and the original Forum position paper.
Signatures are closed but the humanist chaplaincy application is still in progress at the Department of Defense.
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The nation’s capacity to embrace fully and resolutely the concept of religious liberty, and the constitutional right of every American to freely exercise their beliefs, is being tested.  Some claim the United States is a Judeo-Christian country, and by doing so, they diminish people of other beliefs and of nontheistic beliefs. Diverse communities of belief in the military are properly seeking recognition. Many of these communities not only include but celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service members. Humanists and Wiccans seek to join Buddhists, Hindus and other diversity groups who already have recognition and representation in our military.  Not surprisingly, the military services are the primary testing ground, simply because most patriotic Americans believe we all have a duty to secure liberty and justice for the guardians of our freedom.  Some will retreat predictably to a well-worn and mindless adage, complaining that the military is being exploited for social engineering and experimentation, never stopping to think of the service members who should be the primary beneficiaries of these hard won and blood soaked constitutional liberties. Several years ago, the Co-chair of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy was standing in line in uniform waiting to be checked out of the Post Exchange.  The gentleman behind him, who appeared to be retired military, said, “Chaplain, what do you think about bringing these Muslim chaplains into this man’s Army.”  Chaplain Dodd answered, “That’s what free exercise of religion is all about, and I will welcome them.”  The man shrugged and voiced his disapproval, and the chaplain simply replied, “Well you know, if the Muslim chaplain is not allowed to minister to his troops, then we might as well shut the military chaplaincy down, because none of us would have the right to be here either.”  The cash register saved the day, and Dodd was on his way. It just never occurred to this retiree that the military chaplaincy walks a thin and fragile line between church and state, securing the free exercise of religion for all of America’s service members while avoiding undue entanglement of church and state.  Military chaplains exist for the sake of their service members, not the other way around.  Every service member has a constitutional right to the free and unfettered exercise of their religious beliefs, without regard to dominant theologies, orthodox doctrines, or privileged status. Objecting to the new challenges faced by today’s chaplains, recent outcries from religious traditionalists and privileged classes have been loud and persistent, both in and outside of the military.  The presence of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in chapel services and family support activities strains the capacity of some chaplains to carry out their sworn duty to “perform or provide” spiritual care.  The growing visibility and demands of Humanist troops for the appointment of chaplains who can nurture and support them further strains the sensibilities of many conservative chaplains.  Those unable to care for a diverse and altogether unfamiliar clientele may find their gifts and skills more useful in some other area of ministry,and this might actually be the most honorable course of action for them to minister with integrity. We the undersigned strongly support the recruitment and retention of highly qualified, clinically trained chaplains who are representative of and committed to a chaplaincy reflecting a broad and inclusive range of interfaith, multicultural and diverse life experiences. This inclusive outreach extends to chaplains representing the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities of faith, and to those of minority beliefs, including Humanists and other nontheists. They, too, are valued members of our country’s military and must be embraced fully.  Our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen deserve nothing less! Professor Kurt Fredrickson, Associate Dean at Fuller Theological Seminary said it best, “In the end, chaplains are very important, and if Humanist chaplains meet a need for our military, this concept must be embraced.” To that, we simply say AMEN! Respectfully yours, Paul W. Dodd, Chaplain (Colonel), U.S. Army (Ret) Tom Carpenter, Esq. (CAPT USMC 1970-1982)   Organizations are listed with names for identification purposes only, unless the organization is listed first.

Initial Sponsors:

  • Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, Paul W Dodd, Chaplain (Colonel), US Army (Retired) & Tom Carpenter, Esq., prior Captain, US Marine Corps, Co-Chairs
  • Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, Founding Co-Director, The Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School
  • Herman Keizer, Jr., Chaplain (Colonel), US Army (Retired), Founding Co-Director, The Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School
  • The Humanist Society, Rebecca Hale, President
  • The Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, Jason Torpy, prior Captain, US Army, President
  • Kapitein Luitenant ter Zee drs. Erwin A. Kamp, Coordinator Geestelijke Verzorging bij het Veteraneninstituut (Humanist Chaplain in the Dutch Armed Forces, also equivalent a US Marine Lieutenant Colonel and National Director for Chaplains for the Dutch Veterans Administration)
  • Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, President and Professor of Theology, Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union
  • Ed Waggoner, The Rt. Rev. Sam B. Hulsey Chair in Episcopal Studies, Brite Divinity School
  • Stephen V. Sprinkle, Ph.D., Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry and Professor of Practical Theology, Brite Divinity School

(signatures are currently closed)

Your name should appear within 24 hours. If it does not or if you have any other questions or adjustments to your signature. You can also contact Forum leaders directly or through the general contact form.

Additional Signatories:

  • Unitarian Universalist Association, Rev. Sarah Lammert, Ecclesiastical Endorser for Military Chaplains and Director of Ministry and Faith Development
  • United Church of Christ, Rev. Stephen B. Boyd, Ecclesiastical Endorser, Chaplain (Colonel), US Army Reserve (Retired)
  • Rev. John F. Gundlach, Chaplain (Captain), US Navy (Retired), Former Chaplain Endorser, United Church of Christ
  • Metropolitan Community Churches, Rev. Darlene Garner, Elder
  • Rev. Elder Dr. Mona West, Elder, Metropolitan Community Churches
  • Rev. Elder Ken Martin, Metro Community Churches (Retired)
  • Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, Gathering Pastor, Extravagance United Church of Christ
  • Rev. David B Plummer, Endorser, The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches
  • Art Andrade, Deacon, Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Rev. David L. Oringderff, PhD, Executive Director, Sacred Well Congregation
  • Camille Lockyer, Wiccan Minister, The Covenant of the Goddess
  • Terry Boyer, Bishop, United Catholic Church
  • Rev. Dr. Coleman A. Baker, Program Manager, The Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School
  • Rev. Joretta L. Marshall, PhD, Executive Vice President and Dean, and Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling, Brite Divinity School
  • Nancy Ramsay, PhD, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care, Brite Divinity School
  • Daniel C. Maguire, Professor of Theology Marquette University
  • Jeff B. Pool, PhD, The Eli Lilly Professor of Religion and Culture, Berea College
  • The Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, President, Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Deborah Bieber, Vice President, Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Rev. Dr. William Murry, Former President and Academic Dean of Meadville Lombard Theological School
  • Dr. Larry Graham, Ph.D., Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care, Illif School of Theology
  • Shelly Rambo, Assoc. Professor of Theology, Boston University
  • Rev. Tiffany Steinwert, Ph.D., Dean of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University
  • Esther Boyd, Johns Hopkins Interfaith Center Program Coordinator
  • Aubrey Sarvis, Esq., Former Executive Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)
  • Dr. Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign
  • Charles C. Haynes, Director, Religious Freedom Center, Newseum
  • Roger D. McClellan, Founder, The Progressive Christian Alliance
  • Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director, Soulforce
  • Barry A. Kosmin, Director, Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture, Trinity College, Hartford
  • Dr. Michael T. Curd, Founding Director, Institute of Pastoral Care
  • Rev. Harry Knox, CEO, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
  • Varinder Singh, Founder, Turban Campaign CIC (Sikh)
  • Rev. Dr. Lea Brown, Senior Pastor, Metro Community Church of the Palm Beaches
  • Rev. William Young, Ph.D., Assistant Pastor, Metro Community Church Austin
  • Rev. Dr. Larry Bethune, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church Austin
  • TK Barger, PhD, Community Minister, First Unitarian Church of Toledo
  • Rev. Dr. Gordon Gibson, Minister Emeritus, UU Fellowship of Elkhart, IN
  • Rev. Dr. Kyle M. Walker, Interim Pastor, Faith Presbyterian Church, Houston
  • Rev. Marnie Leinberger, Pastor, Milagro Christian Church (DOC), Pueblo
  • Bruce W. Marold, Teacher, Trinity Episcopal Church, Bethlehem, PA
  • Karen Winkel, Pastor, R Church, United Church of Christ, Montrose, CO
  • Rev Joseph M Cherry, Minister, Unitarian Universalists of Modesto and Merced, CA
  • Jim Rigby, Pastor, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Austin
  • Rev. Dr. Sid Hall, III, Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Austin
  • James Stockton, Episcopal Chaplain, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Houston TX
  • Rev. Debra Hayden, Retired Pastor, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Jennifer Harmon, Order of St Benedict (OSB), Ecumenical
  • Jimmy Creech, Former United Methodist clergy, Author, and Speaker
  • Rev. Sandra M. Richards, Pastor, First United Methodist Church Los Angeles
  • Rev. Dr. Lanny C. Lawler, Minister, North Christian Church, Columbus, IN
  • Kathy Cooper-Ledesma, Senior Pastor, Hollywood United Methodist Church
  • Chip Roush, Consulting Minister, First Unitarian Church of South Bend, IN
  • Rev. David Strong, Spirit of Christ Catholic Community Church
  • Virginia C Haradon, Treasurer, St. Michael’s Independent Catholic Church
  • Rabbi Denise L. Eger, Founding Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood
  • Rev Robert Myers-Bradley, BCC, Louis Stokes Cleveland VAMC Chief Chaplain Service
  • Rev. Dr. Henry P. Roberson, Catholic Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel), US Army (Retired)
  • Jerry Rhyne, Chaplain (Colonel), US Air Force (Retired)
  • Charles Dennis Camp, Chaplain (Colonel) U.S. Army (Retired)
  • John W Price, Chaplain (Colonel) US Army (Retired), Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston
  • Seanan R. Holland, Chaplain (Lieutenant) US Navy
  • Heather C. Thomason, USAFR Chaplain Candidate, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Ank (anna) van Harinxma, Humanist Chaplain (Major), Dutch Armed Forces
  • Rev. David Pyle, Chaplain (Captain), US Army Reserve, UU Church of Ventura
  • Imam Al-Hajji Bakori, Muslim Chaplain at Capital Academy, Nigeria
  • Revd. Titus Yeke, Christian Chaplain at Capital Academy, Nigeria
  • Dennis Laich, Major General, US Army (Retired)
  • Alan M. Steinman, Rear Admiral, USPHS/US Coast Guard (Retired)
  • Vincent W. Patton III, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (Retired)
  • Edward Pfeffer, Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. Army (Retired)
  • Rev. Sue Wintz, MDiv, Board Certified Chaplain (BCC)
  • Rev. Johnna L. Faber, Chaplain, U of Texas Medical Branch Galveston
  • E. A. Leonard, Colonel, US Army (Retired), Co-Chair, Outserve-SLDN Military Advisory Council
  • Paula M. Neira RN, CEN, Esq., prior Lieutenant, US Navy, Outserve-SLDN Military Advisory Council
  • Anne Wynne, Esq., Founder, Atticus Circle, and Former board member of SLDN
  • Dr. Susan Gore, Founder, The Mentor Group
  • Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University
  • Chaplain Binyamin Biber, Humanist Chaplaincy at American University, DC
  • Barry Klassel, Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers University
  • Jonathan P. Figdor, Humanist Chaplain at Stanford University
  • Joe Farkas, prospective Humanist Chaplain and Master of Divinity student, University of the West
  • The American Humanist Association, Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director
  • Humanistische Alliantie, Dr Hans Alma, voorzitter (Humanist Alliance Netherlands, Dr Hans Alma, President)
  • Humanistisch Verbond, Ineke de Vries, directeur (Humanist Association Netherlands, Ineke de Vries, Director)
  • Institute for Humanist Studies, Warren Wolf, President
  • Society for Humanistic Judaism, M. Bonnie Cousens, Executive Director and Andrea Friedlander, President
  • Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, Roberta Feinstein, Executive Director
  • Secular Student Alliance, August Brunsman, Executive Director
  • Camp Quest, Amanda Metskas, Executive Director
  • HUUmanists, John Hooper, President (Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association)
  • Center for Inquiry, Ron Lindsay, Esq, President & CEO
  • American Atheists, Dave Silverman, President
  • Secular Woman, Julia Burke, Board Member
  • The Clergy Project, Catherine Dunphy, Executive Director
  • Institute for Science & Human Values, Toni Van Pelt, Director of Public Policy
  • Jeffrey M Hersh, Esq., Legal Director, Forum on the Military Chaplaincy
  • Chuck Von Der Ahe, President, Atheist Alliance of America
  • Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, President, Association of Humanistic Rabbis
  • Miriam S Jerris, Rabbi, Society for Humanistic Judaism
  • Rabbi Adam Chalom, Dean, International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism
  • David Niose, Esq., President, Secular Coalition for America
  • Todd Stiefel, President, Stiefel Freethought Foundation
  • Jone Lewis, National Leaders Council President, American Ethical Union
  • Ron Solomon, Vice President, International Humanist & Ethical Union
  • Rein Zunderdorp, Vice President, International Humanist & Ethical Union
  • Mark Weber-Bodzislaw, Master of Divinity student at the University of the West
  • Mary Ellen Sikes, President, American Secular Census
  • Jenny Kalmanson, Humanist Celebrant and Humanist Society Governance Committee Chair
  • Susan Averbach, IISHJ Rabbinic Student
  • Deborah Godden, Clergy Leader, Machar, DC Humanistic Judaism Congregation
  • Greg Langer, Chairman, Humanist Community at Harvard
  • Chris Stedman, Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University
  • Richard Haynes, President, Atheist Nexus International, Inc
  • Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, Humanistic Rabbi, The Birmingham Temple in Michigan
  • Rodney Chlebek, Michiana Skeptics
  • Marsha McDonough, Ph.D., Psychologist in private practice
  • Jeff Lutes, M.S., LPC, Psychotherapist in private practice
  • Dena Mainord, DMin, Licensed Professional Counselor
  • Rabbi Frank A. Tamburello, Westchester Community for Humanistic Judaism
  • Charlotte Klasson, President, New Orleans Secular Humanist Association
  • Rev. Patrick McLaughlin, Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, NH
  • Rev. Dr. Kenneth W. Collier, Unitarian Universalist Minister (Retired)
  • Rev. Scott Gerard Prinster, PhD Candidate, Department of the History of Science, University of Wisconsin
  • Gregg L. DesElms, Independent Christian Chaplain
  • Mandy Beal, Student, Andover Newton Theological School
  • Aaron Belkin, San Francisco State University, Professor, Author
  • Robert C. Miller, MDiv Candidate, Brite Divinity School

last update 10/3, 8PM

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