‘Sensitive’ military chaplain role does not require faith, says WRC

Chaplains of “monotheistic belief” are not needed to deal with religious and local leaders in sensitive conflict zones according to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in a finding that a prominent atheism campaigner was discriminated against by a failure to consider him for a military chaplain role. The finding is despite the fact that the word ‘chaplain’ means ‘minister of a chapel’ or ‘cleric’.

Witnesses for the Department of Defence argued an atheist chaplain could undo years of liaison work by army chaplains with Christians and Muslims in south Lebanon, including Hezbollah supporters, whom, it was argued, would be unlikely to accept a non-religious minister.

In a decision published on Wednesday, the WRC upheld John Hamill’s complaint of discrimination on the ground of religion against the Department of Defence, ruling that it was unlawful for the Defence Forces to recruit military chaplains solely from among Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland clergy.