Atheists in foxholes
Sir, – In response to a recent freedom of information request, our Defence Forces have confirmed that the chaplains in our military are appointed by bishops. As last reported to the Dáil, the State spends approximately €1 million a year on military chaplain salaries, with one being Church of Ireland and the remaining 17 being Roman Catholic.
It is often said by military chaplains that “there are no atheists in foxholes”, but in fact it would be closer to the truth to say that there are more atheists in foxholes than chaplains in foxholes.
Atheists in uniform are as entitled as anyone else to relevant counsel about the ethics and morality of putting themselves and others in harm’s way. It is hugely disrespectful to atheists in our military (and inconsistent with the Employment Equality Act) that the Minister for Defence insists they may only receive counsel from a priest appointed by a bishop. Moreover, endowing bishops with these hugely valuable appointments is also inconsistent with Article 44.2.2 of the Constitution.
Today a person who carries a Bible into a church is paid more than twice as much by our Defence Forces as a person who carries a rifle into a foxhole.
The Minister should immediately revise the Defence Forces regulations to bring these well-remunerated military chaplaincy roles into line with best practice in public appointments.
All chaplaincy positions should be open to applicants of all faiths or none, and awarded to the best candidate for the job. – Yours, etc,