Congress Questions Navy’s Treatment of Chaplain Modder
Members of Congress have written a letter (PDF) to the Secretary of the Navy asking for details on why US Navy Chaplain (LtCmdr) Wes Modder is facing adverse action for his religious beliefs [emphasis added]:
Our understanding is that Chaplain Modder’s commanding officer has requested that Chaplain Modder be Detached for Cause after a Sailor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command complained about Chaplain Modder’s views on pre-marital sex and homosexuality…
These beliefs on sexual intimacy do not constitute a legally viable reason to bring action against Chaplain Modder or any member of the military… It is dangerous to fall prey to the fundamentally false proposition that individuals who support natural marriage can only be motivated by animus for others.
Realize that these are the members of Congress who wrote the law they are now explaining to the Navy. They’re telling the Navy that the public representation of Chaplain Modder’s situation is not consistent with the law they wrote.
Recognizing the public affairs firestorm this incident has raised (more than 100,000 people have signed a petition in defense of Chaplain Modder), the members of Congress then asked the Navy Secretary to affirm its compliance with the law in protecting religious liberty [emphasis added]:
Finally, as a reassurance to chaplains, sailors, and the public, we would like confirmation as to what steps the Navy is taking to reinforce the policies and protections in place for servicemembers and chaplains to freely exercise their religiously-informed beliefs, including the freedom of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their faith as they perform and provide in all aspects of their ministry, including in counseling sessions.
The congressional dressing-down — again, from the government body that writes military policy and the law — is an awkward situation for the Navy leadership to find itself in, as its lower level commanders have adamantly stood by their original decision to fire Chaplain Modder and position him for dismissal from the Navy.
Congressman Doug Collins — himself a US Air Force Reserve Chaplain — sent a separate letter (PDF) to the Navy inquiring into an issue several have raised — the propriety of the Lt(JG) who sought out complainants in an apparent personal ‘private investigation.’
Quoted at WORLD Magazine, Chaplain Modder’s attorney, Liberty Institute lawyer Mike Berry, said he hoped the Navy would see the error of its ways:
Berry hopes “cooler heads will prevail” and the Navy will realize the dangerous precedent set by taking action that affects not just Modder but all chaplains.
“Think about a chaplain who reads or hears about this incident with chaplain Modder and maybe he’s scheduled to give a sermon the following Sunday in the chapel,” Berry said. “He’s probably going to think twice about his message, which is a terrible predicament for a chaplain, for a minister to have to be in, where he’s now worried about the government coming to get him because of what he said in a sermon, or what he said in a private counseling session with somebody? Nobody should be able to do that. Not in this country.”
As an aside, as previously accurately commented, the Navy has reportedly disputed the allegation it gave Chaplain Modder a No Contact Order. Attorney Mike Berry is a former Marine JAG, so he likely knows what he’s talking about when he describes the directive. It’s possible the Navy is waging a battle of semantics.