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On The Front Lines

With Help from The Rutherford Institute, Evangelical Chaplains File Suit Against U.S. Navy for Discrimination in Hiring

Evangelical Ministers Denied Navy Commissions Due to Discriminatory Quota System

Washington, D.C.--
Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of four evangelical ministers who were denied commissions in the U.S. Navy because of the Navy's "culture of prejudice against non-liturgical faith groups and their clergy." The suit charges that this culture of prejudice is manifested in the Navy's preference for Roman Catholic and Protestant liturgical clergy despite the relatively small number of Navy personnel who identify themselves as belonging to those faith groups.

Reverends Charles Larsen, Gregory McNear, David Myers and James Linzey, military veterans who had completed their religious instruction and were sponsored by their respective religious denominations, applied for commissions with the Navy and were turned down for a variety of reasons. Among the justifications offered by Navy hiring personnel were that the Navy has "no quota" for the ministers' particular religious denomination, that their denomination didn't fit "the needs of the Navy," and that the Navy had filled its quota for age waivers. One minister was told that if he were a "baby baptizer," an off-hand reference to a Protestant liturgical minister, he would not have had a problem receiving a commission, because he would be viewed as "more qualified." The suit alleges that the Navy violated the ministers' First and Fifth Amendment rights, maintained an unconstitutional religious quota system, violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and fraudulently concealed evidence of the violations against the ministers. The Rutherford Institute is currently participating in a similar case involving Navy chaplain Philip Veitch, who was removed from his pulpit and forced to resign his commission as a lieutenant commander because he refused to stop preaching evangelical Christian doctrine that his superiors considered "too divisive." The Institute is also participating in a class action lawsuit instituted by 34 U.S. Navy chaplains who have been discriminated against in hiring, promotion and treatment. Through these lawsuits, Institute attorneys seek to force the Navy to bring the Chaplain corps and its senior officials in line with the Navy's own religious demographics.

"For many years, the Navy seems to have hung a sign out over its chaplain recruiting offices that reads, 'Evangelical Chaplains Need Not Apply,'" said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "When one considers that an overwhelming percentage of Navy personnel identify themselves as evangelicals, it becomes apparent that the Navy is turning its back on the mission of the chaplaincy corps--to preserve and protect the ability of service members to freely exercise their religious faith."

The Rutherford Institute is a nonprofit civil liberties organization dedicated to the defense of constitutional and human rights.

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Nisha N. Mohammed
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