With Recent Attacks on Religious Liberty, Critics Warn Fewer Americans of Faith May Join or Stay In Military Service

Thousands are supporting Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder. (Courtesy/Liberty Institute)
Thousands are supporting Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder. (Courtesy/Liberty Institute)

A Navy chaplain could soon get booted out for biblical views some consider politically incorrect. Defenders of religious liberty warn that if that can happen to a chaplain, it means no service member’s religious freedom is safe.

Lt. Commander Wes Modder points out it’s essential to understand that he’s not just a Navy chaplain; he’s also an Assemblies of God minister. As such, Modder explained, he must accurately present his denomination’s biblical viewpoints.

“It’s important that I follow my conscience, my relationship with Jesus Christ, and my ordaining body, the Assemblies of God. I have to,” Modder told CBN News in an exclusive interview.

And he did just that at the Naval Weapons Station, Joint Base Charleston. In following his denomination’s conservative views, he took a strong stance in counseling sessions on subjects like sex outside marriage and homosexuality.

After several service members complained about his counseling, Modder’s commander confronted him with a dossier that surprised the chaplain with how it made him look.

“I’m in Trouble!”

“I’m like ‘Wow, this must be a terrible chaplain. But wait a minute, that’s me! And that’s not true. And I’m in trouble!'” Modder recalled.

He was blindsided when this controversy suddenly erupted around him because what was getting him in trouble was presenting the same viewpoints he’d been doing for the past 19 years.

He hasn’t changed, but apparently the military culture has.

“The Navy accused Chaplain Modder of being politically incorrect, to put it succinctly,” said Michael Berry, a Liberty Institute lawyer representing Modder.

“The accusation against him is that he’s ‘incapable of functioning in a pluralistic and diverse Navy,’ Berry added. “Those are the exact words used. And that therefore he should be removed from the Navy.”

Berry is also director of Military Affairs at the Liberty Institute, a religious rights group. His colleague, General Counsel Jeff Mateer, sees these attacks in the military rapidly increasing.

“You’ve got chaplains who are being told they can’t share their personal faith testimony,” Mateer told CBN News. “You’ve got chaplains who are being told that in one-on-one counseling, they can’t share biblical principles.”

Follow Policy or Scripture

“Policy may change, culture may change, but God’s Word will never change,” Modder explained. “I will be truthful to Scripture no matter what.”

“If we come to a point where the Navy is going to ask me ‘follow policy or follow Scripture,’ there’s no question for me where I’m going to fall out,” he said.

Mateer took a look at the big picture.

“Unfortunately, I think our government and certainly the Obama administration and the leaders at the Pentagon are engaged in a social experiment where they’re really trying to transform society,” he said. “The impact of that is starting on our chaplains.”

There are people in high places, however, coming to Modder’s defense. Thirty-six members of Congress wrote to the Navy on his behalf, including Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. This is a special matter to him.

“I share something different than all of my other colleagues: I’m an Air Force chaplain,” he explained. “I’m an Air Force reservist who’s served in Iraq, who’s been overseas. For me, this is just personal.”

Collins expanded on Modder’s point that chaplains are duty-bound not just to present the Navy’s viewpoint, but that of the denomination they serve.

“All chaplains serve under we’ll just sort of say two masters. They’re full military officers under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They follow every military protocol,” he explained. “But at the same point, they’re also endorsed by their specific denominational group. And they have to live within its tenets.”

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SOURCE: CBN News
Paul Strand

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