Friday, August 2, 2013

Humanist weddings barred from Naval Academy chapel

Posted By on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 11:28 AM


When a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy asked to use the cadet chapel for a humanist wedding, the academy said, "No way," according to the American Humanist Association.

In fact, the Naval Academy went on to say the chapel is only to be used for Christian ceremonies, the association said in a news release. 

So that made us wonder: What's the policy at the Air Force Academy? The answer isn't clear, because the AFA hasn't received such a request, Maj. Brus Vidal, director of public affairs, says via e-mail.

He went on to say: "There is a policy for chapel use, and all services or events held at the Cadet Chapel must be religious in nature and be conducted by a clergyperson or led by a lay-leader approved by the Cadet Wing Chaplain or designee."

So we apparently won't find out the real answer until the question is raised at the AFA by a humanist. Humanists, by the way, adhere to a philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms a responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

Here's the full release from the association:

U.S. Naval Academy administrators have denied a request from a recent graduate to hold his planned humanist wedding in the academy's chapel, declaring that the chapel is only to be used for Christian ceremonies.

The American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter yesterday to United States Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller and Senior Chaplain Commander Michael Gore asking the decision be reversed and confirm that it is not the policy of the Naval Academy "to forbid non Christians from using the Chapel for their wedding ceremonies."

"This discriminatory policy is unconstitutional," the letter states. "The Naval Academy cannot deny use of its publicly owned facilities on the basis of the religious views of those wishing to do so."

"Weddings performed by humanist celebrants are legal everywhere in the country, as are weddings performed by many other non-Christian officiants," said Appignani Humanist Legal Center Coordinator Bill Burgess. "There is no valid reason the U.S. Naval Academy's chapel can't be used by all of them."

In case you're wondering, the Air Force Academy's policy restricts the use of the chapel for weddings to the following:

Graduates of the USAFA, the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy and the United States Merchant Marine Academy, active duty personnel currently assigned to the USAFA and active duty Air Force personnel stationed in the local area to include Buckley Air Force Base, codependents of active duty personnel currently assigned to the USAFA who hold a valid military dependent ID card on the day of the wedding, Purple Heart recipients and Silver Star recipients and above, [and] ID card holding dependents of service members killed in action

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