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U.S. Navy PROHIBITS Chaplain Wes Modder from Ministering to Fallen Sailor’s Family

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March 26, 2015

First Liberty Institute demands answers for Navy official’s “no contact” order after denying client religious accommodation




In the U.S. Navy officials’ latest attack on Chaplain Wes Modder, last week commanding officer Captain Jon R. Fahs issued a “no contact” order to the highly-decorated military hero—prohibiting him from fulfilling his chaplain role of informing a family of the death of a solider in his unit, offering comfort during a time of grief, and ministering to this family’s spiritual needs. This follows directly on the heels of Captain Fahs’ denial of Chaplain Modder’s request for religious accommodation.

“For my commanding officer to ban me from comforting and ministering to grieving sailors and families just adds insult to injury,” said Chaplain Modder. “One of the most important things chaplains do is to provide comfort and care after a tragic death. I am heartbroken for the family, and yet the Navy won’t allow me to do my job of helping them grieve and mourn. I just want to do my job.”

Captain Fahs issued a “no contact” order to the chaplain—the equivalent of a restraining order—banning the chaplain from any contact with any personnel in his unit at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, South Carolina.  Fahs even went so far as to demand that Chaplain Modder remove himself from the Naval Base on the day of the memorial service for the fallen sailor.  

“This Navy official is using the ‘no contact’ order as a weapon to punish and humiliate a decorated military chaplain,” said Mike Berry, First Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs. “To deny Chaplain Modder of the ability to minister to a grieving family is deplorable.”

NAVY OFFICIALS CONTINUE UNLAWFUL PUNISHMENT OF CHAPLAIN

A highly-decorated military hero and chaplain—whose stellar service includes assignment as Force Chaplain for Naval Special Warfare Command—Chaplain Modder has an exemplary 19-year track record of superiority in his performance and compassionate care for sailors and Marines.

In fact, earlier in his chaplaincy, the Navy even asked Chaplain Modder to be a part of a Navy Chaplain Corps recruitment video! But the tide of respect began to turn in late 2014, when Chaplain Modder was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command at the request of a 4-star Admiral. 

A very small number of military personnel in private counseling sessions asked Chaplain Modder about the spiritual nature of certain personal conduct. Chaplain Modder is endorsed by the Assemblies of God, a respected Bible-believing denomination to which he belongs. He is required to offer requested spiritual guidance in line with their viewpoint, as he has consistently and faithfully done during his chaplaincy. But in this case, the small number of individuals did not agree with his traditional, biblical views regarding their inquiries. Then, apparently, Navy officials did not follow usual procedure in getting Chaplain Modder’s side of the story and rushed to judgment against him.

In today’s politically correct climate—and against federal and military code—Chaplain Modder was unlawfully relieved of duty and threatened with the end of his career.

U.S. Navy officials have removed this highly-decorated chaplain and military hero from his unit and isolated him at the base chapel. Chaplain Modder has been cut off from his sailors, and he is forbidden from ministering to their spiritual needs. And finally, to add insult to injury, Captain Fahs refused to grant him religious liberty and issued a “no contact” order. (Click here to WATCH Chaplain Modder and his wife Beth share about their painful and discriminatory experience.)

PUBLIC OUTCRY AND SUPPORT FOR CHAPLAIN MODDER KEEPS GROWING

With news of more support still to come, already many political, military, and religious leaders have offered unwavering support for Chaplain Modder—including, among others, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Boykin, U.S. Army, The Assemblies of God (Chaplain Modder’s Denominational Endorser), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Franklin Graham, CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Rick Santorum, former United States Senator and presidential candidate, Governor Mike Huckabee, President of Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, and Congressman Doug Collins.

For the third time this month, FOX News contributor Todd Starnes wrote about the Navy’s unlawful punishment of Chaplain Modder in his column, “Navy bans chaplain from ministering to family of dead sailor.”

First Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford also stated this week: “Of the most critical times for chaplains, the death of a colleague is near the top of the list. For this Navy official to bar a chaplain from comforting and ministering to sailors and families is a reprehensible violation of religious freedom and common human decency.”

Even members of Chaplain Modder’s own unit have come forward to testify to the chaplain’s stellar service and his compassionate care for their spiritual needs. Chief Petty Officer, USN, Ian M. Gay, who sought marital counseling from Chaplain Modder, said:

“Many months ago, I was lost. I was not happy, my marriage was not going well, and I did not know what to do. . . . Chaplain Modder asked to give my wife and I counsel on our marriage. . . . During the counseling sessions, Chaplain Modder was always checking to make sure that he had not crossed any boundaries with us. He was always making sure that we were comfortable when meeting with him. Due to Chaplain Modder’s love for Jesus, and his compassion for everyone around him, my marriage was saved.

The guidance he had given us has never been against the word of God. My wife and I will be forever thankful for the things that Chaplain Modder has taught us and the life that he has brought back into our marriage.”

HELP WAKE UP OFFICIALS!

The fight to restore this military hero’s religious liberty rights—and hold the U.S. Navy’s feet the fire and challenge their violation of military regulations, federal law, and the Constitution—is far from over. 

Americans like you need to support Chaplain Modder and stand up for the religious freedom of chaplains, and other brave members of our armed forces. Please sign the “Stop the Unlawful Action Against Chaplain Wes Modder, An American Hero” Petition addressed to The Hon. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the United States Navy. 

The law is on the side of Chaplain Modder, all chaplains, and all members of the U.S. Military who want to exercise their faith. But a public outcry is needed to wake up officials so that violations like this come to a stop. Thousands of Americans have let their voices be heard—please make sure you are among them. Thank you!

Other stories:

Jeff Mateer Urges Conference of Pastors to Stand for Religious Freedom—and Tells Them How




About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.FirstLiberty.org.

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