May 2015 Church & State | People & Events

A U.S. Navy chaplain who was accused of providing inappropriate counseling has been reassigned, and Religious Right groups are up in arms over what they see as a case of discrimination against a conservative Christian.

Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder, who had previously been assigned to serve Navy SEAL units, recently learned that he faces potential termination after he received a “detachment for cause” letter from his superiors.

That letter stated that Modder provided “inappropriate counseling” to sailors by forcing his religious dogma on them. Military Times reported that Modder was accused of telling a woman that she had “shamed herself in the eyes of God” for having premarital sex and that he “berated” another for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. He also told one sailor that homosexuality was sinful because “the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus.” He even insisted that he had a special ability to “save” LGBT people from their sins.

“Commanders felt that allowing vulnerable sailors to be counseled by Modder is ‘a recipe for tragedy,’ according to the letter,” the Times reported.

Modder, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps before attending seminary and becoming a chaplain in the Navy, seemingly understood that his behavior violated regulations. He has not denied that he violated protocol in his public statements; he simply insisted that he should be able to give whatever advice he chooses because of his religious beliefs.

“The military now wants a 2.0 chaplain instead of a legacy chaplain,” Modder told Fox News’ Todd Starnes. “They want a chaplain to accommodate policy that contradicts Scripture.”

Modder added, “This new generation is very secular and very open sexually. The values that the military once held – just like the Boy Scouts of America – are changing. The culture wants this. Culture is colliding with truth. That’s at the heart of this.”

But Modder has decided he’s not going down without a fight. He has retained the Texas-based Liberty Institute to help with possible legal action.

“Chaplain Modder is a military hero who has put his life on the line to serve our nation. No chaplain should ever be punished for ministering to others according to their faith. That is the chaplain’s job; it’s exactly what they are supposed to do,” the group’s president, Kelly Shackelford, said in a media statement.

But naval officials noted that they took action against Modder only after several sailors raised complaints about him. When Modder was asked to explain his behavior, he reportedly told his commanding officers that “he will not follow Navy policy if it conflicts with his faith,” according to the detachment for cause letter.

Christianne M. Witten, chief of Navy Chaplains Public Affairs, told Military Times that Modder has been temporarily reassigned to Naval Support Activity in Charleston, S.C., as a staff chaplain while officials in Navy Personnel Command review the matter.

Americans United noted in a “Wall of Separation” blog post that Modder rightly faced disciplinary action for his refusal to do his assigned job.

“Modder isn’t being fired for his beliefs,” wrote AU Communications Associate Sarah Jones. “He’s being fired because he didn’t do his job. And if the Religious Right really wants to respect our troops, they’ll stop treating the military like it’s just another pawn in the culture wars.”