Army chaplains accused of discrimination

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Army Times is reporting that a pair of Chaplains for the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell are under investigation for discriminating against Jewish soldiers and their families.  Col. John Murphy, and his deputy chaplain, Lt. Col. Sean Wead allegedly created a hostile environment in an attempt to force lay worship leaders to quit and then fired them without cause when that didn’t work, and have failed to meet the worship and spiritual needs of approximately 80 members of the base’s Jewish community.

“Jeanette Mize, her husband, Curt, and son, Lawrence, served as lay leaders for Jewish worship on the installation for nearly two decades. On Feb. 28, the three were allegedly fired without cause.

“There was no explanation why I was fired,” Jeanette Mize told Army Times

She added that her family has “faithfully provided weekly Shabbat and yearly religious worship events since 1999,” and they have worshiped at Fort Campbell since 1984.

“This is the first time in at least 34 years that the Jewish soldiers and their families have been denied weekly Shabbat worship at Fort Campbell,” she said.

“There is no synagogue in the Fort Campbell area or the nearest towns of Hopkinsville or Clarksville,” she said. “The nearest synagogue is located in Nashville, more than 50 miles away.”

Mize added that other religious groups at Fort Campbell could actually worship nearby, “outside the gate,” but there is still worship at Fort Campbell for these organizations.”

The Mizes contacted Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who lodged a complaint with base officials.  The Chaplains also are alleged to have denied the community an opportunity to mark Passover because it interfered with their marking of Good Friday.

“They had to celebrate Passover on a non-Passover date,” Weinstein said. “That’s like telling Christians ‘I know you want to do Christmas on Dec. 25, but it’s more convenient if you do it on Dec. 7, so we can save money.’ ”

Mize said she was told that if the Jewish community still wanted to hold a Passover event on the proper night, there would be no advertising or support for it.

 

Additionally, one of the chaplains said that he could not attend any Jewish services because it would have it would have compromised his beliefs, a response seemingly at odds with the purpose and goals of military chaplaincy.

“When you say that some of the most senior military chaplains can’t even observe Jewish faith practices because it would be offensive to their religious views, it doesn’t get much worse than that, except when you tell them that if they want the base chaplains to support Passover, they have to choose a day that isn’t Passover,” Weinstein said.

 

Military Leaders have reiterated their commitment to meeting the religious and spiritual needs of all soldiers in a statement, but would not elaborate on the investigation at this time.

Robert Jenkins, Fort Campbell’s director of public affairs, said the post is now investigating the allegations.

“Fort Campbell is committed to maintaining and improving the exceptional support we strive to offer all of our chapel communities,” Jenkins said. “We make every effort to ensure all soldiers, family members and civilians have the opportunity to exercise their religious rights. Further comment as this is examined is not appropriate.”

 

Weinstein was pleased to hear that base officials have initiated a “15-6” investigation, which is a type of investigation that requires the appointment of an investigating officer and can lead to a court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

 


image: From Army Times/Jeanette Mize

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EmmaPease
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EmmaPease

I note that Fort Campbell religious support office advertised a Passover Seder two days before the start of Passover (Wednesday March 28 rather than Friday, March 30). http://fortcampbellcourier.com/news/article_7adfb828-1d95-11e8-aa68-0bf7c1a07e21.html
(admittedly in 2009 the same base newspaper announced "Jewish Easter Services").

The latter is almost certainly the newspaper's fault but does demonstrate a certain lack of knowledge on their part. But scheduling a Passover Seder on a day that isn't even in Passover is something the base chaplaincy office got wrong.

Also Sean Wead the deputy chaplain seems to be ACNA and educated at Virginia Theological Seminary.

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Kenneth Knapp
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Kenneth Knapp

I think the key sentence is that "the post is now investigating the allegations." While I'm pretty certain there is a problem, the Army Times appears to be basing its report solely on the Mize's allegations. I would want to see the results of the commander's investigation before "carrying praise or blame too far."

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Chris Thompson
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Chris Thompson

As a retired Air Force Chaplain for 21 years this is totally unacceptable! Chaplains in the Military, VA and the Federal Prison System are there for one reason; to protect and defend the religious rights of all! As an Episcopal Priest I experienced this early in my military career by a “Christian” Army Chaplain. These actions are shameful and the Commander at Fort Campbell should likewise be held responsible!

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