Mr. Berry said he thinks the “hostile work environment” that is forcing the most religious persons out of the military is only getting worse, and that while in the past problems were mainly in the Air Force, religious liberty issues have spread throughout all the services.
“The problem is getting worse, not better, despite our efforts,” he said. “There is a culture [of] hostility [toward] religion in the military right now.”
While problems in the past have touched all religious groups, Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said he’s seen a recent uptick and pattern of Christians facing persecution for religious expression.
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In the chaplain example last month, Navy Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder was removed from his position counseling sailors and could be kicked out of the military for expressing his views on marriage and homosexuality in private sessions. Mr. Berry is representing Lt. Cmdr. Modder, who is still on active duty in Charleston, South Carolina, as the case is reviewed at a higher level.
Mr. Berry said this case even could set a precedent usable outside the military by establishing, as a principle, that the government can punish religious leaders based on the state’s moral disapproval of the church’s teachings, especially in matters of sex.
“If what happened to Chaplain Modder is allowed to stand, it could foretell more instances in which the government tells priests, ministers, chaplains, etc. that their views are unacceptable,” he said.
Mr. Weber said these types of punishments affect both troops and chaplains, since chaplains will feel the need to constantly be looking over their shoulder to avoid punishment, and service members will wonder if chaplains are being honest or just saying what they can say without getting in trouble.
Pray for my friend, Father William Kneemiller, who is just off to the Middle East again for a year as a chaplain. God bless him and keep him safe.