Every soldier gets a set of dog tags and one of the things that goes on them is one’s religious viewpoint. The soldier can choose from a list, and they can choose “atheist” or “no religious pref,” but Major Ray Bradley wanted to list himself as “humanist.” He had the support of his unit chaplain, but the Army chaplain’s office refuses to allow him to do so. Jason Torpy has the details, including this statement from Bradley:
When I joined the Army 26 years ago, “No Religious Preference” was the only choice available to an atheist like me. Recently I discovered that “Atheist” was now a choice for religious preference and I thought it would be a simple matter to have “Humanist” added to the list as well. As my unit’s Chaplain encouragingly told me, “religious preference is a personal choice after all.” Imagine my surprise when the Chief of Chaplains denied my request stating that Humanism is not an approved religion. And atheism is? It’s sad to think that, even today, one can be sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States while their rights under that very document are denied.
Torpy’s reaction is spot on:
In this particular issue CH Lloyd pointed out that humanists don’t have special, required burial rites, so there’s no need to have a special entry. He’s alluding to one of several uses of this information, which is to advise leaders and chaplains on last rites and burial procedures. Preferences currently reported by the Army don’t seem to follow this strict pattern. Independent Fundamental Bible Churches and Independent Fundamental Bible Churches of America (along with about 70 other Protestant denominations) apparently have rites distinct enough to merit separate entries. Hinduism is assumed to be monolithic enough to have only one entry. The core need here is to allow an individual to self-identify according to one’s conscience without exclusion by leaders. The administrative addition of “Humanist” to the list should not require great effort to find a reason why not.
Quite so. I hope my friends at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation get involved in this and help change the situation.