We are urging all members and supporters to write to your local MP, and ask them to make representations to the Secretary of State for Defence, calling for inclusive pastoral support for the armed forces. You can write to your MP directly here.
The availability of high-quality pastoral support, tailored to individual religions or beliefs, is an essential support for service people through the challenges of their careers, and to enhance the fighting effectiveness of the armed forces. However, currently, pastoral support is almost exclusively provided by Christian chaplaincy services.
There is no pastoral support for the non-religious. This is despite some 56,000 regular and reserve personnel identifying as non-religious, the second largest belief group after Christians. Furthermore, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 52 percent of the UK population identifies as non-religious, with this rising to more than 70 percent of young people (18–24) – the armed forces’ principal recruiting base.
Non-religious pastoral care is well-established in other areas of the public sector, including by the National Health Service and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. And there is substantial precedent in other nations’ armed forces for humanist pastoral care provision. The Netherlands’ armed forces have had humanist pastoral care for 55 years; the Norwegians and Belgians make such provision, and the Australian Navy has recently reformed its chaplaincy to cater to the needs of non-religious personnel by employing non-religious pastoral carers.
Conservative Humanists Chairman, James Baird commented “This step should be a no-brainer, we have non-religious pastoral support in prisons, and hospitals, but our armed forces who can face some of the most challenging circumstances are largely still only able to access Christian chaplaincy services. Please do write to your MP, as I have done, and urge them to do all they can to support inclusive pastoral support for our armed forces.”