From Hero to Hater: Navy Beats Down Chaplain’s Appeal for Religious Freedom in Homophobia Complaint

John Moore/Getty Images/AFP
John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

Using language that once kept open gays out of the military, the commanding officer of the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command is using identical language to remove a Christian Chaplain from his duties.

The Commander says certain kinds of Christian teachings are harmful to “unit cohesion” and “military readiness.”

In a sharply-worded memo, Modder’s commander denied his request for a “religious accommodation” in a disciplinary process that has relieved him of his command and could kick him out of the Navy forever. Modder stands accused of homophobia and insensitivity–though, in the official documents, the term is “substandard performance”–which could trump all the accolades he has received in almost 20 years of service and throw his professional life into ruin.

The commander said his decision was based on “military readiness, unit cohesion, health, safety, morale, good order, discipline, and mission accomplishment.” Further, he said, “Your ability to express your religious beliefs during pastoral counseling has not been restricted or substantially burdened.”

Modder’s commander also charges him with not being sensitive. “Under the core capability of ‘care’ you have the duty to be sensitive to the religious, spiritual, moral, cultural, and personal differences of those you serve.”

His commander said Modder did not properly “comfort” those who came to him for counseling.

Lieutenant Commander Wesley Modder has ministered to Navy personnel under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Navy SEALs, and has received uniformly glowing reviews from his superiors. Until the recent controversy, Modder’s commander had him on the “early promote” list.

A junior officer who worked temporarily in Modder’s office recently brought formal charges against him. The junior officer, who did not identify himself to Chaplain Modder as either “gay” or “married” to another man, accused Modder of denigrating homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

According to Modder, neither his commander nor anyone of his superiors interviewed him about the charges before he was relieved of his command last month and began the process of removing him from the Navy altogether. Modder is six months shy of 20 years in the military, 15 of those spent in the Navy.

Modder hired the public interest law firm Liberty Institute to defend him, and through Liberty Institute, Modder denied the specific charges, though he admitted to discussing the teachings of his church on homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. Modder insists he did not initiate any of these discussions but only responded to issues brought to him by those seeking counseling.

Liberty Institute filed a response to the charges and demanded a “religious accommodation” that would have recognized Modder’s right to talk about certain controversial issues from the teachings of his Church.

In 2014, the U.S. Congress told the Department of Defense that the Military Departments “will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” “unless it could have an adverse effect on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline…”

Modder’s lawyers said, “Even if the complaining sailors alleged that Chaplain Modder’s religious expression offended them, it would not be a compelling interest. Perceived offense is irrelevant.” The lawyers said the critical question was whether there was “religious coercion”, something they deny Modder ever did. The lawyers insist, “Censoring a chaplain’s religious expression constitutes unconstitutional and unlawful religious discrimination.”

Modder’s Liberty Institute lawyers tell Breitbart News they will follow all appeals within the military and failing that are contemplating legal action in the appropriate legal venue.

Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse


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