Interview: Navy Chaplain Fights Back Against Charges of Homophobia

The U.S. Navy has until Monday to respond to Chaplain Wesley Modder, who says the Navy’s attempt to remove him from the military for alleged anti-gay statements is unlawful.

Lieutenant Commander Wesley Modder has been a Chaplain in the Navy for six months shy of twenty years. He has ministered to Navy Seals under fire in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been described in official reports as “the best of the best,” a “consummate professional leader.” He has been recommended for “early promote,” which is the “highest rating possible.”

All of this came crashing down a few weeks ago when a complaint was lodged against him by a same-sex attracted lieutenant junior grade who says Modder is a nothing less than a homophobe.

In a lengthy interview with Breitbart News, Lieutenant Commander Modder said the junior officer, who identified himself as a devout Catholic, was assigned to the chaplaincy as a kind of assistant while he waited for further assignment.

Modder said the junior officer attended Modder’s briefings, marriage indoctrination classes, and “would often wander in for private conversations, but homosexuality never came up. We talked about other issues, about human sexuality, about marriage but he never identified himself as gay…”

Modder said his conversations with the young man were “very enjoyable,” and there was “never any disagreement in any of our conversations. “I was shocked on December 6th when he walked through the door with two command equal opportunity officers,” said Modder. Modder said he was so shocked that he did something he’d never done: look someone up in the student database, where he discovered the young lieutenant was married to a man.

It turns out the young officer seemed to be running his own private investigation into Modder’s Christian beliefs and how they may conflict with his interpretation of proper tolerance for LGBT individuals.

Modder says it seems the lieutenant jg sought out other sailors who had received counseling from Modder and quizzed them about things Modder had said in counseling. The result is a series of charges that Modder either rejects as false  or accepts as a part of his “deeply held religious beliefs.”

The charges against Modder include allegedly telling a student that she was “shaming herself in the eyes of God for having premarital sex,” telling another student that “homosexuality was wrong,” that “the penis was meant for the vagina and not the anus,” and that he could save someone from being gay. He is supposed to have “berated” a student for being pregnant and not married and been caught “lying” to his commanders about what he had said.

In a lengthy response submitted to the Navy by his attorneys, Modder says the charges against him “are simply untrue or are gross mischaracterizations of what actually occurred.” Modder “categorically denies he initiated conversations about marriage or human sexuality” because “his practice is always to listen, and to allow the individual to bring up topics they wish to discuss.”

This aspect of Modder’s defense is important because, as Modder told Breitbart News, he does not push his beliefs on those who come to him. He only responds to issues they bring to him. And he also begins each counseling session by identifying himself as an ordained minister and that his responses will come from his deeply held religious beliefs. He also says he is required by the arrangement between his church and the Navy to only ever express the beliefs of his church, which must “endorse” him before he can become a Navy chaplain. If he strays from his church’s doctrine, he could lose his “endorsement” and, therefore, his job.

Modder “specifically denies using inappropriate language or gestures.” Modder insists he responded to questions in counseling sessions “honestly and from a biblical worldview,” and these included his belief that “sexual acts outside of marriage are contrary to biblical teaching; and homosexual conduct; and homosexual orientation or temptation as distinct from conduct is NOT a sin.” [emphasis his]

Modder then makes charges against his superiors. His “religious expression is therefore consistent with —- indeed, it’s protected — federal law and military regulations,” and, therefore, attempts to kick him out of the military are “unlawful.”

The National Defense Authorization Act (FY, 2013) prohibits military personnel from requiring a chaplain to perform “any rite, ritual, or ceremony contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain.” The law also says the chaplain cannot be denied a promotion for such refusal.

Department of Defense Instruction also says a “service member’s expression of sincerely held beliefs may not be used” to deny promotion or assignment.

Modder cites case law, specifically the 1997 Supreme Court decision in Rigdon v. Perry, where the court decided the military may not censor a chaplain’s religious expression.

Modder not only denies the charges, not only does he charge his commanders with violation of federal law and Navy regulations, he demands a “religious accommodation” which requires the Navy to respond by Monday.

He cites congressional legislation and Department of Defense regulations that “unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Military Departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” and that Navy policy is to “accommodate the doctrinal or traditional observances of the religious faith practices by individual members when those doctrines or observances will not have an adverse impact…”

Under regulations, the Navy has until this Monday to respond to Modder’s request for a religious accommodation.

The LGBT lobby likely will argue that Modder’s deeply held religious views, views shared by Baptist and Catholic chaplains that comprise the majority of military chaplains, negatively impacts unit cohesion, military discipline, and military readiness and, therefore, must be banned. This would turn the argument used against open LGBTs serving in the Armed Forces exactly on its head.

To show how far this issue has advanced, the Department of Defense is considering allowing transgendered soldiers to serve openly in the military and to pay for their sex change surgeries and hormone treatments.


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