U.S. Navy Official Denies ‘Religious Accommodation’ Request of Chaplain Facing Discharge

ModderCHARLESTON, S.C. — A U.S. Navy official who issued a “detachment for cause” to a chaplain who is under fire for his counsel against fornication and homosexuality has now also denied an religious accommodation request from the chaplain.

As previously reported, last December, several sailors allegedly filed complaints against Chaplain Wes Modder, a 19 year decorated military veteran with 15 years in the chaplaincy, stating that he was guilty of discrimination for the way that he had provided counsel regarding issues of sexual morality.

In a “detachment for cause” letter dated Feb. 17, Navy Capt. Jon Fahs, NNPTC commander, branded Modder as being “intolerant and “unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment.”

Among the incidents that Fahs cited as being inappropriate, included an alleged statement to a female sailor that she was “shaming herself in the eyes of God” for having sex outside of marriage, “berating” another female for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, and advising several other sailors that homosexuality was wrong and goes against human physiology. He also noted that Modder said that if policies conflicted with his faith, he must still stand for his faith.

Fahs contended that to allow other students to be exposed to Modder would be a “recipe for tragedy.” Calling Modder’s counsel “misconduct,” he recommended the chaplain’s removal.

As Modder was provided an opportunity to respond, he submitted a request for religious accommodation, which was denied this past week. Fahs opined that the chaplain already had freedom to exercise his religion, but that he was “insensitive” in his counseling.

“In your case, I find that your ability to express your religious beliefs during pastoral counseling has not been restricted or substantially burdened,” he wrote in his response letter. “Rather, the decision to relieve you from your duties was based upon your failure to uphold the core capabilities of chaplains … and the professional standards of conduct … ”

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“Specifically, 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,” Fahs continued. “Your inability to comfort and counsel in a manner that was respectful of the counselee while maintaining dignity and professionalism … led you to be relieved of your duties.”

The Texas-based Liberty Institute, which is providing legal assistance to Modder, says that it will appeal the decision.

“They (the complainants) were looking for someone to simply tell them what they wanted to hear. And when they didn’t hear what they wanted to hear, they complained,” said attorney Mike Berry.

“We will not sit by while Navy officials completely disregard federal law on religious freedom. The stakes are far too high,” added CEO Kelly Shackelford. “The future religious liberty of every service member and chaplain in the U.S. military hangs in the balance.”

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