Washington, D.C. — Jason Heap, whose application to be a chaplain in the U.S. Navy was recently denied because he's an atheist, today released the following statement:
"I am exceptionally disappointed and aggrieved by the Navy's initial rejection of my application. I will continue to seek acceptance. I hope military leaders will open their hearts to humanists and give me the opportunity to serve all sailors as a chaplain for the next 20 years or more."
Also today, the leaders of Openly Secular have made public an official letter to Rear Admiral Mark L. Tidd, the Chaplain of the U.S. Navy, calling for his support in reversing the ruling blocking Heap from serving his country as a military chaplain. Openly Secular believes this denial is a blatant and un-American form of discrimination, given Heap's many qualifications for the chaplaincy. A full copy of the letter is provided below.
Despite having confirmed receipt of the letter to Admiral Tidd, the Navy has not otherwise responded to calls for reconsideration.
The discrimination against Heap comes as two separate polls offer more evidence of the prejudice nonreligious people regularly face in the United States:
- A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found nearly half of the public (49%) would be unhappy if a family member were to marry someone who doesn't believe in God
- A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows 15% of respondents, including 19% of Republicans and 21% of white evangelicals, say it's acceptable for business owners to deny services to atheists