Press Release

Media Advisory: Court to Decide – Must Navy Recognize Atheists as Religious? Becket Fund defends the rights of servicemen to have genuine chaplains

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, June 18, the U.S. Navy will fight in a Virginia federal court to protect the religious chaplaincy against atheist groups that mock and ridicule religion. For years, the Humanist Society and its parent organization, the American Humanist Association, have argued that religion is superstition, should be stripped from the public square, and join with groups who refer to chaplains as ‘spiritual rapists’. Yet now in Heap v. Hagel the organization is suing the Navy to be recognized as a religious organization. Why? To get itself appointed to the chaplaincy. The core purpose of military chaplains is to provide religious ministry to service members. Atheist groups, such as the Humanist Society, who reject religion cannot serve that purpose.There are many roles for atheists in the military but the chaplaincy is not one of them.

Oral Argument in Heap v. Hagel

Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel for Becket*

June 18, 2015 at 10 a.m.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square Alexandria, VA 22314
Courtroom 1000

 *Becket attorneys will be available for comment immediately following the hearing, which will be argued by the Department of Justice.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224.


Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including  Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs  and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”