Somewhere, Brevard Hand is smiling.
The late federal judge in the Southern District of Alabama gained notoriety three decades ago for ordering the removal of 44 social studies and history textbooks used in his state on the grounds that they promoted a religion of Secular Humanism and as such were in violation of the Establishment Clause. His decision was unanimously reversed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that instead of promoting such a religion, the “message conveyed by these textbooks with regard to theistic religion is one of neutrality: the textbooks neither endorse theistic religion as a system of belief, nor discredit it.”
Now comes the Army, approving Humanism as a religious preference for its personnel. So Hand is vindicated, right?
The Humanists approved for dog tags, gravemarkers, and (eventually, one presumes) military chaplains are personnel who see themselves as bearing an identity of non-theist belief, and want to be recognized as such in the collective. That is their right under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion, which is what entitles anyone in the military to religious services, be they Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Bahai, Hindu or Buddhist, Sikh or Wiccan.
By contrast, the Secular Humanism counted as religion by Judge Hand is merely the position of government neutrality asserted by the 11th Circuit, relying on Supreme Court decisions. To be sure, the judge, who was no country bumpkin, took the position that such neutrality couldn’t really exist. The United States was founded on the principle that it can.