A Democrat-sponsored amendment that would have created chaplains for atheists who are serving in the nation’s military was defeated by lawmakers on Wednesday.
The proposed amendment would have added atheists, humanists and “ethical culturalists” to the corps of chaplains. Democratic New Jersey Rep. Robert Andrews was behind the proposal.
According to Andrews, he was not trying to be controversial, he was just hoping to give atheists the same opportunities for counsel that other service members have.
“I don’t offer this to be provocative,” Andrews said. “I don’t offer this to be an attack on anyone else’s faith.”
No matter his intention, the House Armed Service Committee members shot his proposal down, 43-18, The Washington Times reported.
Andrews' amendment had been supported by the Secular Coalition for America. The group claims that 23 percent of those serving in the military have no religious preference or say they are atheists. The coalition said speaking to a chaplain does have some advantages.
“The chaplain-patient relationship enjoys more confidentiality that the psychiatrist or counselor relationship does,” said the group in a statement.