Chief Petty Officer Martin Healey is the first Atheist lay leader. In a great leap forward for diversity of belief, commanders on the USS Makin Island have appointed an Atheist Lay Leader.
Throughout the military services in the United States of America, there have been chaplains and religious leaders that have offered help, support, and guidance in what can be very difficult and confusing situations. In more modern times, there have been attempts made to ensure that every member of the Navy, regardless of religious beliefs, has a person that they can turn to – and that has meant in the last few days that a new atheist lay leader has just been appointed in the Navy to offer support to those within the Navy that do not believe in God.
This move by the Navy will undoubtedly be seen as very controversial by some people, as they will argue that a religious counselor by definition requires a religion. However, Chief Petty Officer Martin Healey has gone through the same training program that all other lay leaders within the Navy have gone through, and he has even received support from Paul Loebe, a key member of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He has since met with five others on the Navy vessel the USS Makin Island, offering them the chance to discuss their beliefs and ideas within a Navy setting.
This dramatic move could encourage other ships within the Navy, other military groups such as the Army, and perhaps even businesses to start to include atheist chaplains or lay leaders within their organizations. Many atheists – both individuals and groups – are greatly supporting this decision that the Navy has made, because they see it as a move to include atheism as a valid religious belief. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers states that: “It’s time to set aside semantic barriers and recognize that many military personnel are good without a god.”