Catholic priest sues over access denial at military base because of shutdown


A Catholic priest has gone to court, saying the partial government shutdown is preventing him from providing religious services– even voluntarily– on a U.S. military base.

Father Ray Leonard filed a lawsuit Monday in federal district court in Washington, saying he "wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge… but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so."

Leonard is a newly hired civilian employee, scheduled to start work October 1 to provide Catholic religious services at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.

The priest was one of thousands of civilian military employees and contractors furloughed because of the failure of Congress to reach a deal on funding the federal government. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has since recalled some Defense Department workers, but civilian military chaplains were excluded.

Leonard and co-plaintiff Fred Naylor, a veteran who attends Catholic services, said their First Amendment right of religious expression and outreach was being violated.

Written By: Bill Mears
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  1. Seems like a case of wanting to eat your Eucharist and have it too. If this furloughed employee was a journalist, would he also complain that his First Amendment Right was violated if he was prohibited from using his employer’s office to write an opinion column?

    Looks like a frivolous waste of the Court’s time to me.


  2. If the military want to be processed by the priest, they could come off base and meet in some church.

    Are the courts still functioning?

  3. “In China, I was disallowed from performing public religious services due to the lack of religious freedom in China. I never imagined that when I returned home to the United States, that I would be forbidden from practicing my religious beliefs as I am called to do, and would be forbidden from helping and serving my faith community.”

    … but not for a lack of religious freedom. A hurricane or angry bear could also prevent one from practicing their religion. That’s not persecution or denial religious freedom. If the government quarantines his office for mumps, that’s not persecution. He’s complaining about his sense of convenience.

    Parishioners are advised to attend an off-base Catholic church about eight miles away.

    Oh, for fuck’s sake! Lazy bastard! This guy is out of his freaking mind comparing that to Chinese tyranny. This is so sadly, typically American… no it’s not typical. This guy is the living cartoon of an American, lazy, entitled, unappreciative of what he has, and claiming to be a victim because of petty inconveniences. He should team-up with Taylor Chapman, the dunkin donuts racist who didn’t get her receipt. They could totally go on a mission together redressing their petty grievances in an opulent society… eight miles! The guy thinks eight miles is a death march. WTF?!

  4. If the government shut-down means “non-essential” employees being asked to remain home, I can’t see a more fitting group on which to apply it than God-whisperers, but that’s just me.

    (Looks like this might be a clash between employment law,or what the priest’s contract says regarding furloughs, and the 1st amendment, or the right to freedom of expression).

  5. Leonard and co-plaintiff Fred Naylor, a veteran who attends Catholic services, said their First Amendment right of religious expression and outreach was being violated.

    I doubt there is any case to answer, they aren’t being prevented from religious expression, they just aren’t being assisted to do it with government money. Which should be the normal state of affairs! I hope they pick up the legal fees.

  6. The priest seems to be afraid that unless his flock is regularly indoctrinated, they will forget about his ideas, and, I don’t know, become….unbelievers ! There may be a tiny spot of good in the shutdown.

    A side point….”Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base”…. is there a “Kings Bay Army Submarine Base” ???? Seems to me they could save money painting the signs. Put that towards accommodating this priest.

  7. Sounds very simple. Sever church ties with the government completely. This then means the First Amendment and separation of church and state are being upheld; the church can carry on preaching whilst pay their taxes in full and receiving no government subsidy. Everyone wins!

  8. I’m English, and I’ve benefitted from our National Health Service (NHS) all my life, and it seems to me that the Republican right wing are nincompoops in trying to prevent a health service in America; a priest said a short while ago that they’d rather see America fail than Obama succeed.

  9. The Eucharist is under house arrest?! goD can always issue a ‘get out of jail free card’.

    Another article seems to suggest (imo) Sec. Hagel has a personal vendetta against Padre Leonard.

  10. Something about the Catholic Church suing the Tea Party appeals to me.

    If only there was some way of making them both lose

  11. Consider that the American Conference of Bishops support the shutdown to get birth control coverage out of Obamacare, this guy is fooling himself. Face it, rabid Catholics lie to themselves. I wish one of these guys could explain to me what the heck a Christian Chaplin has to do with the military. Killing for Jesus is not in the Sermon on the Mount. It is so sick that the spiritual entertainment industry is taken seriously.

  12. When you consider the harm that was being done by the Shutdown the Chutzpah of these guys is really amazing. Here are just a few examples of what else was being impacted:

    In Arkansas, for instance, federal funds for infant formula to feed 2,000 at-risk newborn babies were in jeopardy, as were 85,000 meals for needy children in that state. Nutrition for low-income kids was considered nonessential even though one in four children in this country doesn’t have consistent access to nutritious food, and medical research makes it clear that improper nutrition stunts brain architecture in the young, forever affecting their ability to learn and interact socially. Things got so bad that a Texas couple dug into their own reserves to keep the program running in six states.

    If children in need were “furloughed,” so were abused women. Across the country, domestic violence shelters struggled to provide services as federal funds were cut off. Some shelters raised spare change from their communities to keep the doors open. According to estimates, as many as six million women each year are victims of domestic violence. On average in this country, three women are murdered by an intimate partner every day.

    But funding for domestic violence protection: nonessential.

    Funds for early childhood education, too, were shut off. Seven thousand low-income kids from 11 states were turned away.

    From Huffington Post Article What Was Essential

    So with all this happening this guy wants to clog the courts because he won’t be getting paid to do what is supposed to be a spiritual calling anyway and something he would supposedly do regardless of money (I know it’s not just saying that is the idea and I’m sure what the priest would say if asked)

  13. In reply to #17 by bluebird:

    Hold the phone – stop the presses

    Wow, fast work by the Vatican.

    That article you linked to was from the “Thomas More Law Center” which is a right wing group that supports the kind of pointless lawsuits that this was an example of. I’m not sure if their lawyers were some of the ones who brought this in the first place but even if they weren’t they have a clear bias. Contrary to what that article said what actually happened here is not that the government relented in it’s attack on religion but that enough Republicans heard from their wealthy donors that crashing the US economy was not such a good idea and so the whole Shutdown was cancelled. Since the “attack on religious freedom” was really just the priority setting that saying mass wasn’t as important as some other vital services (which often still didn’t include food for needy children) the priest got his funding back as did all government employees and services impacted by the Shutdown.

  14. In answer to #15 by Vicar of Art on Earth

    Don’t be deceived by the Sermon on the Mount.
    Biblical exhortations against killing don’t mean “You mustn’t kill another human”; they mean only “You mustn’t kill another Israelite”.

  15. In reply to #18 by Red Dog:

    I’m not sure if their lawyers

    I can’t find details, but Erin Merino of TMLC filed the suit. Even though they won this round, we shan’t let this ever happen again, where are the smelling salts…

    Other article’s current spin:

    1)Priest files lawsuit!

    2)Priest wins lawsuit!

    47)Priest reinstated due to end of gov. shutdown.

  16. In reply to #14 by N_Ellis:

    Something about the Catholic Church suing the Tea Party appeals to me.

    If only there was some way of making them both lose


  17. Does Thomas Moore ever file suits against priests for raping children? I didn’t think so.

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