Group of chaplains files federal religious-bias suit against Navy

Some Protestants discriminate against other faiths, it says
AP, Aug. 12, 2002

NEW RIVER MARINE CORPS AIR STATION – Fifty current and former Navy chaplains across the country are claiming that Methodists, Lutherans and other traditional Protestants in leadership positions are using their power to discriminate against other faiths.

The chaplains have joined in a federal religious-discrimination lawsuit against the Navy and are waiting for a judge to decide whether their case may be viewed as a class-action suit, permitting others with complaints to join the group.

Lt. Cmdr. Gary Stewart, a chaplain at New River Marine Corps Air Station, said he believes that he was temporarily relieved of his chaplain duties at the Great Lakes, Ill., training base because of the way he said a prayer in his own worship service.

“Our motto is cooperation without compromise, but I was told to compromise or I’d never see another promotion,” Stewart said.

“They are controlling accession, promotions, transfers and selections to admiral by placing their representatives on the selection boards,” Stewart said of the traditional group known as liturgical Protestants.

“There is favoritism going to certain faith groups over other groups,” he said.

At least eight local Navy religious leaders who claim unfair treatment within the Chaplain Corps have persuaded U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, D-N.C., to investigate their complaints.

In one instance, Wilder, a Southern Baptist, said, he tried to offer the option of grape juice or wine to a congregation despite his own beliefs against alcohol. He claimed that he was ordered to eliminate the grape juice.

Wilder also alleges that while he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, a more senior chaplain not within his chain of command interrupted Wilder’s service and relieved Wilder of duty in front of his congregation. Wilder also claims that he has been given direct orders with threats of incarceration by the military police.

“I’m a Southern Baptist, and I’m being told that I am not being tolerant because I don’t preach their way,” Wilder said.

The plaintiffs hope to use the Navy’s own documents in their court action. They are pursuing a report from an investigation commissioned by former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig because of complaints within the Chaplain Corps.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 12, 2002.
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