Navy Chaplains Allege Discrimination Against Evangelicals
The United States Navy allegedly discriminates against certain Christian denominations, according to Virginia attorney Arthur Schulcz, who represents 65 naval chaplains – 16 of whom are Southern Baptist and claim that they were discriminated against for promotions because of their evangelical beliefs.
The case, first filed on behalf of a single chaplain in 1999, has expanded with additional lawsuits that have now been consolidated into a single case.
Schulcz’s statistician has numbers to help prove their case that has been in court for 12 years.
The statistics tell a basic story: the more evangelical a candidate is, the less chance he or she has of getting promoted within the navy.
His clients objected to the chief of chaplains or his deputy sitting as president of the Chaplain Corps promotion boards, which select candidates for lieutenant commander, commander, captain and rear admiral.
The selection process is blind and based on members giving the candidate a 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100 rating for promotion potential, 100 being the best. If one board member gives a candidate a 0, then that candidate has been ‘zeroed out’ and will not receive the promotion. The voting is done in secret.
“There was one board in which there were 9 Pentecostal candidates. None of them were selected,” Schulcz told The Christian Post. “If you come from a denomination that says I don’t like Pentecostals, that board member is in a position to say ‘he ain’t going to get promoted.’ There’s no accountability for the vote.”
His motion said that statistical analysis shows that the Naval Chaplain Corps consistently demonstrates a preference for Catholics first and liturgical Protestants second.
"Theologically more conservative denominations have been treated prejudicially when compared with those of more liberal beliefs within the FCG’s [Faith Group Clusters]," the motion stated.
In one case, the study found that 40 of 48 candidates who came from the same denomination as the chief of chaplains were selected for promotion to commander, or approximately 83 percent of those being considered. However, when candidates did not match the chief’s denomination, only 210 of 287 were selected, a rate of 73 percent.
"When you have 48 people who share the [chief's] denomination and 40 get promoted … that's evidence," said Schulcz, who has filed a motion for a temporary injunction to halt the next promotion board hearings, according to the Baptist Press.
Schulcz’s statistician found an even larger statistical difference when dealing with promotions to captain alone; 22 of 28 candidates from the same denomination as the Chief of Chaplains were promoted, or 79 percent. Meanwhile, only 224 of 444 candidates that differed from the Chief's denomination made the cut, or just over 50 percent.
Furthermore, the documents state that Romans Catholics received promotions more than 93 percent of the time from 1985-2000; meanwhile, members of three other liturgical groups earned promotions 81 to 86 percent of the time from 1985-2000.
These rates are much higher than Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.
The next promotion boards do noy meet until next February. However, if Schulcz succeeds in the injunction, these meetings may be delayed.
“We are not against Catholics or any religion. We are simply seeking a level playing field – not just for our people but for everyone,” Schulcz explained.
‘”I told my clients that this case is not about a promotion. It cannot be about promotion. It has to be about restoration. We need to restore the system. My clients all agreed to that. They want to make sure that the men and women who come after them, seeking promotion, get a fair chance.”
An equitable promotional system will not only ensure fairness for the individuals seeking promotion, but also for the entire Navy as well, according to Schulcz.
“You have to have people in the Navy that speak to the lives of the men and women who serve. By cutting out evangelical chaplains you are doing a great disservice to a lot of the men and women in uniform who are looking for answers in their lives.”
One Naval officer reportedly told Schulcz, “If you try and live righteously and love God, you’ll have trouble in the navy core.”
According to Schulcz, the Navy is the only military branch that has this kind of blind voting.
“All other branches allow you to see who gave what grade to a candidate. This allows for accountability.”
The Christian Post called a Navy spokesperson but they declined to comment.