All Things Soldier: Protecting The Chaplaincy, Part 3, Chaplains Sue For Right To Pray In Jesus’ Name

11-15-2013 7-29-43 PMI gotta admit, when I read that Chaplains in California are filing suit against the VA for the right to pray in public in the name of Jesus, as well as actually quote scripture, I am more than intrigued, and genuinely encouraged. The two, who are Navy and Army Chaplains, allegedly got kicked out of the chaplaincy clinical pastoral training course because of their Baptist beliefs. They were mocked for their belief in Creation and a Creator, told they “didn’t belong in the program,” and clearly ticked off their instructor, (a Ms. Nancy Dietsch,) something fierce.

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Their names are Lt. Commander Dan Klender, and Major Steven Firtko. Please understand, these guys are not freshly commissioned “butter bars,” as new lieutenants are nicknamed in the Army and other service branches because of a single bar on their uniform that looks like a stick of butter. A Lt. Commander in the Navy is the equivalent of a Major, and these chaplains have been taking care of our military for a good while.

Some of their adventures allegedly included “Ms. Dietsch inform[ing] the class she believes God could be a man or woman. Chaplain Firtko [then] recited the Lord’s Prayer, stating, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven,’” the lawsuit states. “In response, Ms. Dietsch angrily pounded her fist on the table and shouted, ‘Do not quote Scripture in this class!’”

And further, “Ms. Dietsch insisted that evolution was fact and that she believed mankind evolved. Chaplain Firtko stated he believed in the Genesis statement that ‘[i]n the beginning, God created the Heavens and Earth,’” it alleges. “In response, Ms. Dietsch pounded her fist on the table and ordered Chaplain Firtko to not quote Scripture in the classroom, stating [that] it made her feel like she had been ‘pounded over the head with a sledge hammer.’”

I wonder if Ms. Dietsch would have taken Muslim chaplains to task if while in her classroom they quoted Suri 4:34 out of the Koran. That’s the one that talks about dealing with an odious wife first by kicking her out of bed, and if she still doesn’t comply with your husbandly wishes, you can beat her. And for those of you who think that I am speaking from a Christian bias, while in Iraq I have seen imams on Al-Jazeera (not the American version) teach at great length on how to do wifely beatings properly, citing the man’s obedience to that teaching of the Koran as being “the mercy of Allah for a wife.”

Trainers like this have somehow come to believe that they personally are synonymous with DOD policy itself. Ms. Nancy went on to tell the “chaps,” as they are often affectionately called, that both she and the VA “do not allow chaplains to pray in Jesus’ name in public ceremonies.”

As important as it is to allow chaplains to quote their scriptures or pray in the name of the author of their faith, there is something afoot in this that I feel is far more sinister and is described below. It has to do with the discussion of the reality of evil, and the implementation of what feels like a throwback to the old Soviet policy of “re-educating” those who are recalcitrant. The lawsuit states further: “When Chaplain Klender responded to a question during a group discussion regarding the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, CT by stating he would tell a parent whose child was a victim by stating that ‘there is evil in the world,’ Ms. Dietsch impugned his core faith beliefs stating they would not work in a clinical setting,” the suit outlines. “In the presence of the other students she said, ‘You don’t actually believe that do you?’” I would have said, “Well, ma’am, speaking for self, I agree with Messiah. “Deliver us from evil.”

Klender decided to withdraw from the program completely. Firtko was put on a six week probation period to see if he would buckle under. He was eventually dismissed from the program after Dietsch stated that the “probation period is not yielding the results we both desire.” What’s next, a trip to the Gulag?
Where it stands right now is that the Military Veterans’ Advocacy group is seeking an injunction against the VA that the men be reinstated in the program, and that the courts protect Christian chaplains from discrimination. Their attorney, John B. Wells, told NBC San Diego the following: “Nobody, especially anyone in the armed forces or working for the federal government, should ever be required or coerced to abandon their religious beliefs.” Good word, and keep punchin’, guys!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner