The 2011 World Humanist Congress, gathered in Oslo, Norway, on 12-14 August 2011 adopts the following resolution on the pastoral support of non-religious military personnel.
The 2011 World Humanist Congress notes that:
- Military chaplains and counsellors can play an important part in the moral and emotional support of military personnel.
- Some countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium have Humanist counsellors working alongside religious chaplains to support non-religious personnel. In many other countries military personnel, veterans, and their families have religious chaplains available to support them but no analogous Humanist counsellors available to support the non-religious; elsewhere, counsellors or chaplains are employed by the military in order to support all personnel but the opportunity to apply for these jobs is limited to applicants either of only certain religions or of only one religion.
- Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees every human being ‘the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ The 2011 World Humanist Congress believes that:
- Where religious military chaplains are provided, but analogous support from Humanist equivalents is not, states are not respecting the human rights of non-religious personnel.
- Where military chaplains have a duty to provide referrals or other services to religious personnel not sharing their religion or belief, but no analogous duty to refer or provide services to non-religious personnel exists, states are not respecting the human rights of non-religious personnel.
- Where counsellors or chaplains are employed by the military in order to support all personnel, regardless of religion or belief, but the opportunity to apply for these jobs is limited to people of one particular religion or a number of particular religions, states are not respecting principles of equal treatment.
In consequence of which:
- We call upon states that provide support for religious personnel, veterans, and their families through the provision of chaplains to make Humanist equivalents available to non-religious personnel, veterans, and their families.
- We call upon states that provide counsellors or chaplains to support all personnel, regardless of religion or belief, but that limit the opportunity to apply for these jobs to religious applicants, to end such restrictions and open all such roles to all qualified people.
- We urge national Humanist groups to seek ways that they can ensure that non-religious service personnel are not discriminated against in their national armed forces and that all service personnel have full enjoyment of their guaranteed human rights
Suggested academic reference
'Pastoral Support of Non-religious Military Personnel', Humanists International, World Humanist Congress, Oslo, Norway, 2011