US Navy Chaplain’s Career Threatened over Homosexuality
In an incident that homosexual advocates claimed would never occur, US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder has been removed from his duties — and threatened with dismissal from the military — because his religious beliefs conflict with homosexuality:
A chaplain who once ministered to Navy SEALs could be thrown out of the military after he was accused of failing “to show tolerance and respect” in private counseling sessions in regards to issues pertaining to faith, marriage and sexuality, specifically homosexuality and pre-marital sex, according to documents obtained exclusively by Fox News.
Lt. Commander Wes Modder, who is endorsed by the Assemblies of God, has also been accused of being unable to “function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, S.C.
Chaplain Modder had been at NNTC since April. Around November, a new assistant started working in the office:
Modder said the young officer had only been working with him for about a month and would constantly pepper him with questions pertaining to homosexuality. He had no idea that the officer was in fact gay – and married to another man.
The article refers to the Navy Lieutenant (Junior Grade) as a “chaplain’s assistant,” though its unclear if that is accurate. Official “chaplain’s assistants” in the Navy are generally enlisted Religious Program Specialists (RP) — not officers. Regardless, after about a month of “pepper[ing] him with questions,” the Lt(JG) filed a complaint against the chaplain with Equal Opportunity.
on Dec. 6…an assistant in his office showed up to work with a pair of Equal Opportunity representatives and a five-page complaint documenting grievances against the chaplain.
The lieutenant junior grade officer went on to detail concerns about [Modder’s] views on “same-sex relationships/marriages, homosexuality, [and] pre-marital sex.”
After a Commander Directed Investigation, which closed near the end of January, Chaplain Modder was served with a “Letter of Detachment” (PDF), essentially a removal for cause. Among the charges:
He told another student that homosexuality was wrong.
He insinuated that he had the ability to “save” gay people.
In his response, coordinated with his legal representation Mike Berry of the Liberty Institute, Chaplain Modder “categorically denie[d]” that he initiated any conversations about marriage or human sexuality; his statements were responses to others’ inquiries or in the context of counseling. In that regard, Chaplain Modder asserted the allegations were “simply untrue or are gross mischaracterizations of what actually occurred.” He also described how he explained his role when he conducted counseling, making clear everyone he counseled knew his worldview:
Chaplain Modder…explains to them that when he conducts counseling, his role is to listen to the individual, and should they ask questions, he is compelled by his faith to answer from a biblical worldview, consistent with the tenets of his endorsing denomination.
The Navy Captain’s response to the complaints is problematic for several reasons.
First, the Navy has done a significant about face in its assessment of Chaplain Modder. Just weeks before the EO complaint, Chaplain Modder received an outstanding performance review, including the highest-level recommendation of “early promote” — written by the same officer who now says Chaplain Modder’s performance is so “substandard” that he should be removed from the promotion list altogether and should show cause to remain in the Navy. As the chaplain’s response states,
it is inconceivable that Chaplain Modder could substantially depart from the high standards he established over nineteen-plus years, in multiple commands, both afloat and ashore, within a matter of weeks.
Second, the Navy’s letter makes serious allegations of “discrimination” — but also reveals yet again either ignorance or an intentional attempt to redefine the word. While every allegation against Chaplain Modder involves a verbal statement on his part, the Navy’s letter says
On multiple occasions he discriminated against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds.
Despite the seriousness of that allegation, the Navy’s letter lists no acts of discrimination. Disagreement with another person’s conduct, beliefs, or worldview does not constitute “discrimination,” and any military officer — especially one advised by JAGs and EO staff — should be able to articulate this correctly.
Third, there is a significant issue in the fact the complaints came from private counseling sessions. To be clear, it is entirely inappropriate for a military officer to wander around a unit and volunteer his views on marriage and sexuality. That is a very different situation than a Sailor seeking out a chaplain for private counseling, knowing full well what that chaplain’s beliefs are. In this case, the details of that counseling are now public — or, more accurately, enough details to indict the Chaplain are public. More troubling, however, is the “coincidence” that multiple complaints came from (apparently) the assistant and “private” counseling sessions in such short succession.
The fact that so many complaints were generated against Chaplain Modder over such a short time — from private counseling sessions — after nearly two decades of service culminating in stellar performance reviews — hints of a coordinated effort.
Orchestrated or not, the effort should have failed: Fourth, the Navy’s letter directly contradicts the Department of Defense guidance to date on chaplains in the post-DADT repeal environment. When the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, one of the specific examples used about the post-repeal environment was a Chaplain’s religious role and rights:
Does repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell affect the religious rights of chaplains?
No…In the context of their religious ministry, chaplains are not required to take actions that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs (e.g., altering the content of sermons or religious counseling, sharing a pulpit with other chaplains, or modifying forms of prayer or worship).
The reason this was a “Frequently Asked Question” during repeal was because it was a common concern among troops of faith that they would incur negative repercussions because homosexuality was now permissible. In response, the DoD made clear that its official position was that no negative repercussions would occur; in fact, it made clear that chaplains could continue to express their beliefs, even if they were on “socially controversial” topics. Further, the DoD explicitly said
regulations also recognize that chaplains minister to members in accordance with, and without compromising, the tenets of their faith.
This DoD guidance was so “reassuring” that any attempts to discuss such outcomes were dismissed out of hand as mere fear-mongering.
Now, a US Navy chaplain has experienced the very repercussions the Department of Defense said wouldn’t occur.
Did the Navy Captain err in taking action against the chaplain?
Did the policy change, such that action against the chaplain is now permissible?
Or was this type of situation — chaplains being punished for expressing their faith, even tenets consistent with their ecclesiastical endorsers — a foregone conclusion?
The outcome of this situation bears watching.