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November 11, 2013 Print
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Military Chaplains Sue Over Harassment, Attack on Christian Faith

by Bethany Monk

Those who serve our country often greet reveilles before the sunrise. They don the uniform. They represent our country, and they continue to make sacrifice after sacrifice. With the onslaught of government intrusion on religious freedom, some of them are dealing with egregious attacks on their personal faith.

A legal group on Friday filed suit on behalf of two military chaplains. According to the suit, a supervisor with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mocked their Christian faith, repeatedly, during a chaplain training program.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Steven Firtko and U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Klender began the Clinical Pastoral Education Center program at a San Diego VA last year. Shortly after, they say the program’s supervisor, Nancy Dietsch, began harassing their beliefs.

According to the suit, she told them they could not pray in Jesus’s name, and she shouted: “Do not quote Scripture in this class!” while pounding her fists on her desk.

“Not only was the treatment these men received inappropriate, it was also a violation of federal law and the religious freedom guarantees of the First Amendment,” said retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. J.B. Wells, executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy (M-VA).

M-VA is representing the Conservative Baptist Association of America, the endorsing agent for the two chaplains.

According to court documents, Dietsch also insisted that God could be a man or a woman and stated that evolution is a fact. The suit says she stated three times that: “There is no room in this program for those who believe they are right and everybody else is wrong.”

“This is what happens when your actions as Commander-in-Chief say that morals and values don’t matter anymore in the military,” said retired Air Force Col. Bill Spencer, a national representative of family policy councils for Focus on the Family. “And then you have all of these other people out there who will interpret that commander’s intent in extreme ways.”

Klender withdrew from the program in February because of the harassment, according to the lawsuit. Firtko, who was placed on probation by Dietsch, received a letter — dated Feb. 15 — from the VA notifying him that he would be dismissed from the program on March 1.

“No American choosing to serve in the armed forces should be openly ridiculed for his Christian faith,” Wells explained. “That is most obviously true for chaplains participating in a chaplain training program.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the complaint in Conservative Baptist Association of America v. Shinseki.

 



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