Navy priest sues over right to celebrate Mass during U.S. shutdown

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:29pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Roman Catholic priest who says the government shutdown keeps him from performing religious services at a U.S. Navy base filed suit with a parishioner on Tuesday to be able to celebrate Mass at a chapel.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington by the Rev. Ray Leonard, of St. Marys, Georgia, claims the shutdown barred him from carrying out religious duties at the Kings Bay, Georgia, submarine base.

Leonard and parishioner Fred Naylor, a Navy veteran from St. Marys, said the shutdown violated their First Amendment rights to free speech, association and exercise of religion.

Leonard, a civilian, said he had been told that if he celebrated Mass at the base's Kings Bay Chapel voluntarily during the shutdown he would be arrested. Leonard's contract with the Navy started on October 1, when the shutdown began.

The suit said that the chapel was closed to Catholic services but Protestant services were still being held there.

Scott Bassett, a base spokesman, said the Navy lacked funds to pay Leonard and denied he had been told he would be arrested. Active-duty personnel unaffected by the shutdown were performing Protestant services, he said.

The suit seeks to prevent the government from applying a law that allows voluntary services only in emergencies.

The lawsuit is filed against Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jackie Frank)

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Comments (3)
Burns0011 wrote:
Yeah.. for once, the chaplain is in the right. He should have had the opportunity to hold Mass on base, regardless. “Congress shall make no law respecting an institution of religion.” This includes EXcluding religions as well as INcluding them.

Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim services should not have been denied any member of the military services.

Oct 16, 2013 9:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
I find it disturbing how these people think they are special and should be exempt from the laws everyone else follows. If you hire on as a civilian working for the military, then regardless of your capacity you are subject to the laws governing that business relationship. They can try to make it out to be a first amendment issue but it’s not. They signed a contract and now they have to live by it. However, the real problem is why are my tax dollars being spent to fund their religion? This wouldn’t even be an issue if the soldiers had to hire their own priests. You have the right to religion, but not to take my money to fund it.

Oct 18, 2013 10:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mimi84 wrote:
To Anti-Ignorance: Those same sailors and soldiers that practice their religion on your tax dollars are the same ones that defend your homeland and liberty.

So as I see it, using your line of thinking, why should my tax dollars be used to defend YOUR freedom? Think about it.

Oct 21, 2013 11:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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