Two military chaplains were forced out of the San Diego Clinical Pastoral Education Center training placement program because of their Christian beliefs. They claim the instructor, Nancy Dietsch, “hassled” them throughout their time at the center because of their Biblical views. Here are a few excerpts from the story to set the stage:
They were told that Dietsch and the VA “do not allow chaplains to pray in Jesus’ name in public ceremonies.” When they attempted to quote Scripture during class discussions, they were personally reprimanded.
“Ms. Dietsch informed 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 Dietsch angrily pounded her fist on the table and shouted, ‘Do not quote Scripture in this class!’”
“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.’”
The men also allege that they were informed that chaplains “do not belong in this program” who “believe your beliefs are right, and everyone else’s is wrong.”
On another occasion, Klender stated that he was belittled in front of the class for his Christian beliefs.
“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?’”
Klender withdrew from the program, and Firtko was put on a six-week probation period after being threatened with dismissal. Firtko was eventually let go after Dietsch stated that the “probation period is not yielding the results we both desire.”
A chaplain is a religious position and is based on someone’s belief system. There are representative chaplains from every religion and denomination.
When in the field, you may not have access to a chaplain of your chosen belief system, however, the local chaplain is there to serve all the troops, regardless of beliefs. Chaplains are trained to be sensitive to and respectful of those differences.
But how, exactly, is a chaplain supposed to function as a chaplain if he’s expected to check his belief system at the door and discard his foundations (in this case Bible scripture)? Is this military institution trying to reprogram chaplains to only minister what they feel is acceptable?
It would be interesting to know if only the Christian chaplains weren’t permitted to quote scripture or if it applied to all chaplains. And without the Bible, Koran, and Torah, what exactly is the chaplain’s purpose anyway?
You can read more about this complaint here.
Photo credit MS Office ClipArt
via The Real Side Radio Show with Joe Messina ~11/15/13