Decorated Former Navy SEALs Chaplain Faces Boot over Expression of His Christian Faith

( [email protected] ) Mar 10, 2015 06:41 PM EDT
Navy Chaplain
In 2012, Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder offered an invocation during a Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony at the Coronado Fire Department in Coronado, California. The ceremony observed the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks and honored those who lost their lives and loved ones in 2001. Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Benjamin Crossley/US Navy

A decorated Navy chaplain who once served SEAL teams could be booted out of the military after facing accusations of failing "to show tolerance and respect" in private counseling sessions.

According to a press release from the Liberty Institute, Chaplain Wes Modder, a decorated Navy chaplain and former Marine, is facing threats of punishment from the Navy for expressing his faith-based views in private counseling sessions with sailors. He has served in the military for almost 20 years, mainly in support of SEAL teams who conducted operations around the world.

"Chaplain Modder is a military hero who has put his life on the line to serve our nation," Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford said. "No chaplain should ever be punished for ministering to others according to their faith. That is the chaplain's job; it's exactly what they are supposed to do."

Liberty Institute reported that the Navy wants to bar Modder from promotion, fire him from his chaplain job, and bring him to a military Board of Inquiry, which has the authority to force him out of the military.

"The Navy is attacking a military hero who put his life on the line to serve our country - first as a Marine, then as a chaplain," Liberty Institute's Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry said. "They've given Chaplain Modder a choice: your religious freedom or your career. If the military can punish him for his views, what is the point of even pretending we have religious liberty in the military?"

Attorneys from Liberty Institute have argued that the Navy is engaging in "unconstitutional religious discrimination" by going after the chaplain's "religious expression."

"They note that federal law and military regulations forbid the Navy from punishing a chaplain because they act according to their faith," the legal organization wrote. "Liberty Institute also requests that the Navy allow Chaplain Modder to return to serving his sailors according to his faith."

According to Todd Starnes of Fox News, the Assemblies of God have endorsed Lt. Commander Modder. Capt. Jon R. Fahs, Modder's supervisor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, S.C., wrote a memorandum describing the charges.

"On multiple occasions he discriminated against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds," Fahs said.

Modder elaborated on the charges made against him to Starnes.

"The military now wants a 2.0 chaplain instead of a legacy chaplain," Modder said. "They want a chaplain to accommodate policy that contradicts Scripture."

Starnes reported that Modder first received the complaint, which contained five pages of grievances, from an office assistant, a lieutenant junior grade officer, who showed up with Equal Opportunity representatives. The complaint focused on Moody's views about "same-sex relationships/marriages, homosexuality, different standards of respect for men and women, pre-marital sex and masturbation."

"His five page letter of complaint was unconscionable," Modder said. "He said I had a behavioral pattern of being anti-discriminatory of same sex orientation."

Modder told Starnes that he had no idea the junior officer was a married gay man when he answered the officer's questions about homosexuality. According to Starnes, the Navy did not give Modder a chance to defend himself and ordered him to clean out his office after being relieved of duty.

"It was insulting and it was devastating," Modder said. "I felt discriminated against. How could something like this happen at this stage of my career?"

The chaplain warned Americans that the military culture has changed over the past few years.

"This new generation is very secular and very open sexually," he said. "The values that the military once held - just like the Boy Scouts of America - are changing. The culture wants this. Culture is colliding with truth. That's at the heart of this."

However, Modder remained unapologetic about his Christian faith and convictions.

"Every fiber in my being wants to run away from this - but if I do I'm not being obedient to the Lord," Modder said to Starnes. "I need to stand up for righteousness and this is something I cannot walk away from."

Modder added that it will be a "hard road" for him, but he thought it was "what God called me to do."

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