After deceiving his parishioners for five years, and the rest of the world for one day, the Rev. Jim Moats’ recently revealed that he was never a Navy SEAL.
Immediately after the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, the Navy SEALs rose to celebrity status. They had successfully raided bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and killed the world's most wanted terrorist. On the quest to reach out to a former Navy SEAL and find out more about their life, The Patriot-News, known for their interviews with veterans, wrote a story on Saturday on Rev. Jim Moats after hearing he had been a former SEAL.
The next day, Moats shamefully confessed his story was 100 percent fake.
In fact, he said he never had SEALs training, nor was he accepted in the program.
He told The Patriot-News, “I never was in a class; I never served as an actual SEAL. It was my dream. ... I don’t even know if I would have met the qualifications. I never knew what the qualifications were.”
The Patriot-News reporter, Dan Miller, heard about Moats because he had been telling his congregants at Christian Bible Fellowship Church in Newville, Pa., for five years that he had been a Navy SEAL and proved it with a gold Trident medal, only given to those who have completed the training. The medal can be bought at any military store.
The Saturday story received comments from its readers who called Moats a fraud. In particular, a retired SEAL, Don Shipley, who had been trusted by the military with a database with SEALS names, called him out.
The paper revealed that they never check facts concerning veterans because they believe that “these men and women would not lie and dishonor those who have fought bravely defending our country,” the publication said in a note to readers.
According to Shipley, the pastor’s story, about being re-assigned to kitchen duty and being waterboarded and hit by SEAL instructors was taken from the movies “Under Siege” and “GI Jane.”
Shipley said he wasn’t surprised by Moats because men have lied before about military service. One reason being, they want to impress women in bars or, in Moats’ case, because of mental problems, he said.
“He has mental problems, plain and simple. His wife and friends and flock believe it, and he starts believing it himself. That is not an excuse. The pastor is very aware of what he did,” Shipley said.
During the confessional interview, Moats said the story began when his congregants noticed a plaque on his office that honors SEALs and other Navy special-operations units.
The plaque had been given to him by his two sons who were in the Army and served in Iraq together. He never corrected his churchgoers because for him “it’s an ego-builder, and it’s just simply wrong. In that sense, I’ve been living this lie for the past five years.”
At the end of Sunday service, he told his church briefly about his deception and said that he would be providing a more complete explanation during the church’s Wednesday night service. His only hope is to receive prayers, forgiveness and loyalty from those he lied to, he pled.
“I bring a shame and a reproach upon the name of Christ, I bring a shame and a reproach upon my church, and I bring a shame and a reproach upon my family,” Moats confessed.