WASHINGTON — Over 30 members of Congress have come to the defense of a decorated Navy Chaplain who is facing possible discharge after superiors called his Christian counseling against premarital sex and homosexuality a “recipe for disaster.”
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 last month. Fahs opined that the chaplain already had freedom to exercise his religion, but that he was “insensitive” in his counseling.
“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 wrote. “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.”
But the Texas-based Liberty Institute, which is representing Modder, opined that the whole matter rather came about because 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.”
Now, members of Congress have written to the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Chaplains in defense of Modder, reminding the officials that chaplains are entitled to conscience protections under the National Defense Authorization Act.
“Navy policy … protects a chaplain’s ability to preach and teach consistent with the tenets of his or her endorsing denomination, even when Sailors may disagree with the chaplain’s remarks,” the letter, sent on Monday and signed by 35 members of Congress, reads.
“[Modder’s] beliefs on sexual intimacy do not constitute a legally viable reason against Chaplain Modder or any member of the military,” it continues. “If the request that Chaplain Modder be Detached for Cause is based on Chaplain Modder’s belief that where his faith conflicts with Navy policy, he must follow his faith … then the request [for his detachment] is untenable and must be denied.”
The Congressional members reiterated that chaplains who have different convictions than others should not be punished simply because they counsel according to their biblical beliefs.
“Likewise, if [the detachment] is based on Chaplain Modder’s religious belief that sexual intimacy was designed for the context of natural marriage—an orthodox religious belief that is held by the majority of chaplains in the Chaplain Corps as well as by Chaplain Modder’s endorsing denomination—it must be denied,” the letter states.
“It is dangerous to fall prey to the fundamentally false proposition that individuals who support natural marriage can only be motivated by animus for others,” it warns.
The Representatives are now requesting further information regarding the Detachment for Cause filed against Modder, and are asking that the Navy provide an outline as to how it follows federal law to “reinforce the policies and protections in place for servicemembers and chaplains to freely exercise their religiously-informed beliefs, including the freedom of chaplains to adhere to tenents of their faith as they perform and provide in all aspects of their ministry, including in counseling sessions.”
Signees of the letter include Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Trent Franks (R-Az.), Robert Latta (R-Ohio), Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) and Randy Weber (R-Texas).