Over 100,000 Americans Call on US Navy to Reinstate Christian Chaplain Facing Discharge for Talking About His Faith

U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder
U.S. Navy Chaplain Wes Modder. |

The U.S. Navy received a petition Monday that calls for the reinstatement of a chaplain allegedly disciplined for his Christian beliefs, and who is now facing possible discharge and the loss of his military retirement.

Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council and the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition delivered the petition, which has been signed by more than 101,000 people, in support of Lt. Commander Wes Modder.

"More than 100,000 Americans are joining together in this petition to say they will not stand for service members being punished and driven out simply for living in accordance with their religious beliefs," said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.

"The case of Chaplain Modder has the Navy's attention, as it should. Religious liberty is being targeted. We not only delivered petitions, we delivered a message — we will not back down from defending the religious liberty of those in the military."

A Pentecostal chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Modder had been assigned to the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in South Carolina.

In February, Modder received a "detachment for cause" letter from his superiors in response to allegations that he had been intolerant of those who sought counsel from him.

Allegations included remarks criticizing the sexual conduct of students who were homosexual or had engaged in premarital sex.

If Modder is found guilty, his punishment could have long term financial ramifications, according to Andrew Tilghman of the Military Times.

"Modder has served more than 19 years and could lose his retirement benefits if the Navy convenes a board of inquiry and officially separate him before he completes 20 years of service," Tilghman reported. "Modder denies any wrongdoing and is fighting the dismissal with attorneys from the Liberty Institute, which advocates for religious expression in the military and in public institutions."

Earlier this month, the FRC posted a petition calling on people to send a message to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stating that attacking Modder for expressing his beliefs was "unacceptable."

"Chaplains in the military must be allowed to fully and freely represent in word and in deed the faith communities that have endorsed them," read the letter. "Chaplain Modder should be free to counsel according to his biblical faith on the issues of sexuality, morality, and any other issue."

While many on the political right have come to Modder's defense, some like the far-left blog ThinkProgress, are more critical.

Eugene Fidell, a lawyer who specializes in military justice and teaches at Yale Law School, told ThinkProgress that Modder "was way out of line."

"For faith groups whose creed cannot be reconciled with the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the chaplains have to make a choice. If they can't resolve the conflict, they have to leave," Fidell argued.

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