House kills Dem proposal allowing nonreligious military chaplains

"What my amendment would simply do is allow chaplains who are certified or ordained, secular humanists and ethical culturalists or atheists, to also be able to support the brave men and women who serve in our military," Polis said.

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Polis said his amendment is needed because the only other counseling option available to nonreligious service members is to see a mental health expert.

"When someone sees a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor, it has a certain stigma that can be attached to it that doesn't exist when you're seeing a chaplain," he said. "It also doesn't enjoy the same confidentiality that a chaplain visit does."

During debate, Republicans rejected Polis's idea by saying the chaplain corps by definition is run by people with religious beliefs.

"Let's examine what a chaplain really is," said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.). "A chaplain is a person who is a minister of the faith, someone who ministers on the basis of a belief in a deity, a higher power."

Fleming added that there is no reason an atheist would seek out a chaplain for consultation. "By definition, as an atheist, he doesn't or she doesn't believe in the spiritual world. Makes no sense whatsoever," he said.

Democrats insisted that nonreligious service members should be able to confide in an adviser in a way that does not create a stigma.

"Going to a mental health professional is a choice that is laden with risk and some controversy for a member of the service," Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said. "Going to a faith adviser is not."

But the GOP-led House was able to defeat the amendment in a 150-274 vote. Every Republican voted against it, and they were joined by 44 Democrats.

Elsewhere, the House again rejected a proposal to limit government sponsorship of NASCAR or professional wrestling. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) proposed a National Guard ban on these sponsorships, but the House rejected it in a 134-289 vote.

Other amendments getting a roll call vote on Friday were from:

— Michael Turner (R-Ohio), requiring the president to reveal any details about proposed deals with Russia on missile defense. Passed 239-182.

— Rush Holt (D-N.J.), striking language that requires missile defense activities, except those related to the Iron Dome project the U.S. funds for Israel. Failed 61-362.

— Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), reducing total funds authorized in the bill by $60 billion. Failed 71-353.

— Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), reinstating New START funding. Failed 195-229.

— Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), striking language on the sense of Congress on the conflict in Syria and that the executive branch should seek the removal of Syria's leaders. Failed 123-301.

— Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), directing the president to end the permanent basing of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Vilseck, Germany, and return the Brigade Combat Team in Europe. Failed 110-313.

— Polis, limiting funding for the purchase of ground-based interceptor rocket motor sets, and the refurbishment of an Alaska missile field until the Department of Defense (DOD) certifies that the U.S. Northern Command has "full confidence" in the U.S. missile defense system. Failed 146-278.

— Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), reforming the Iraq and Afghanistan Special Immigration Visa programs, and adding a sense of the House that these programs are important to the U.S. missions in those counties. Passed 420-3.

— Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), prohibiting the DOD from buying equipment from Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport, unless the DOD certifies that the firm is cooperating with a Defense Contract Audit Agency audit, not delivering missile defense batteries to Syria, and that no new contracts have been signed with Syria this year. Passed 423-0.

— Tim Walz (D-Minn.), requiring the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the use of personality disorders as a basis to separate members from the Armed Forces. Passed in voice vote.

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