In the military, each soldier is allowed to specify a religious identification on their dog tags and in official records, but their choices are limited to a list of approved designations. For a long time, one could only identify as “no religious preference” if they were an atheist or humanist, but that is finally changing.
While soldiers can choose what religion appears in their official military records, they are limited to a list of “faith codes” approved by the Army Chaplaincy. Despite repeated requests by me and others, the Army has, for years, resisted adding “Humanist” to that list.
This week, however, “Humanist” will become an officially approved faith code, and I will finally be able to accurately identify my belief preferences on my official records.
The faith codes recognized by the Army include, among others, designations for service members who identify as Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, Jewish, Buddhist, or one of more than 100 Christian denominations. But the options for those who follow non-theistic beliefs systems are decidedly more limited…
The road to this victory has been challenging. I first requested that my religious preference be changed to Humanist in September of 2011. For over two years, I was given excuse after (often conflicting) excuse as to why this simple change could not be made. I sought assistance from the Office of the Inspector General and even my U.S. senator, but the stonewalling continued.
Ready to give up, I connected with Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and he put me in touch with the ACLU. Within weeks of receiving a letter from the ACLU, the Army notified me that “Humanist” would indeed be added to the faith-codes list.
Once invisible in the Army, Humanists now have a voice. We can stand up and be counted. Hopefully, this is just the first step in ensuring that Humanists across the military are no longer discriminated against and receive the same respect, benefits, and treatment as those who live by other faiths and belief systems.
Terrific news. A major victory for humanists.