DOJ Targeted Priest After He Sued Over Gov Shutdown Of Religious Services

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Father Leonard   

Last October, the Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in reaction to what they called “an astonishing attack on the religious freedom” of Catholics at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia who were denied access to religious services on the base and whose priest was locked out of his chapel.

Because of the priest shortage on military bases, contract priests are employed by the government to ensure that a priest is available when an active duty Catholic Chaplain is not present.

During the government shutdown – in keeping with the Regime’s efforts to make the shutdown as painful as possible for Americans,  many GS and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide were banned from working –  even volunteering  – despite provisions in the Pay Our Military Act that for provided the funding of employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale and well-being of the military. Reportedly, Protestant services continue to take place and only Catholic services were shutdown.

Father Ray Leonard, the priest in question,  was threatened with arrest if he performed any sacraments during the shutdown. Breitbart News reports that a day after the reverend filed his lawsuit against the Department of Defense, he received a letter from the DOJ reinstating his right to serve Mass, but one week after receiving the letter, he was informed that his DOD contract was no longer valid.

The DOJ offered him a new contract that contained more “onerous” language, stipulating that, in order for the priest to be paid, he agree not to receive payment for services he had already rendered. “No other military chaplain contracts were under review or subjected to the same scrutiny as Father Leonard’s,” according to his lawyer at the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC). Father Leonard had not received any remuneration for November and suffered financial hardship. It is unclear whether he will receive pay for December.

Leonard lives close to the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, where he performs his duties as a priest. He is responsible for paying his own rent and his meals. Erin Mersino, counsel for Father Leonard, explained that “Father Leonard just returned to America after spending ten years ministering to impoverished Tibetans in China. Consequently, withholding Father Leonard’s earnings for approximately two months left Father Leonard himself in an impoverished condition. Yet, he continued to minister to his congregation by scraping up enough money for food and rent payments for housing near the Naval Base which he serves.”

Mersino says the TMLC has filed an amendment to the original law suit including adding the retaliation complaint. “The Petition Clause of the First Amendment protects individuals who challenge the unconstitutional actions of the government from retaliation. The Archdiocese for the Military Services confirmed that no other military chaplain contracts were under review or subjected to the same scrutiny as Father Leonard’s.  Thus, due to the timing of the Navy’s actions and the information gleaned from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, all signs point to Father Leonard being singled out and subjected to unlawful retaliation for bringing the government’s practices to light.”

Father Leonard remarked that, “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.”

What a sad commentary of the state of religious freedom in America, today.

Previously:

Thomas More Law Center Sues DoD For Shutting Down Catholic Services On Navy Base

Clear and Present Danger: Religious Persecution In The US Military (Video)

Video: NPS Director Scorched For #ShutDownTheater At House Hearing, Wednesday – Issa Says He Should Resign

Today,  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings convened a joint hearing entitled, As Difficult As Possible: The National Park Service’s Implementation of the Government Shutdown.”

The hearing examined the National Park Service’s decision to barricade open-air memorials on the National Mall, which are normally open to the public 24 hours a day, during the government shut down.

The decision prohibited access to veterans and visitors and is unprecedented in previous shutdowns.

“The National Park Service’s decision to barricade the normally unattended open air memorials on the National Mall, including the World War II Memorial, is only one example of the many drastic and unprecedented steps the Park Service has taken during the current lapse in appropriations,” said Chairman Issa. “Their actions suggest a pattern of decision making based on politics rather than prudence. During sequestration and the current government shutdown, Park Service officials reportedly instructed employees to make fiscal cuts both visible and painful. Caught in the crossfire are innocent Americans – veterans and small business owners – who have a right to expect that even during tough financial situations, government officials are still acting as trustworthy stewards of their tax dollars.”

“Across the country, Americans are deliberately being denied access to open-air memorials and national parks – places that are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” stated Chairman Hastings. “These are sites that were not closed by the Clinton Administration during the last government shutdown.  However, the Obama Administration appears determined to make their shutdown as difficult and painful as possible.  They are forcing private businesses to close and are selectively choosing which high-profile sites to close off and which to keep open.  One park ranger even said that they were directed to ‘make life as difficult for people as we can.’  This is shameful and wrong and we intend to hold the Obama Administration accountable for their actions.”

Trey Gowdy took a blow torch to NPS Director Jarvis for closing open memorials and monuments to veterans while leaving parks open for pot smoking occupiers.

Jarvis admitted that he discussed closing the open-air monuments and memorials with the White House, as well as the secretary of the Interior Department:

After the hearing, Chairman Issa told Politico, Jarvis should resign.

The head of the National Park Service should step down over his handling of the government shutdown, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa told POLITICO on Wednesday.

“Three strikes and you should be out,” Issa (R-Calif.) said after a five-hour hearing in which he and other Republicans lambasted park service Director Jonathan Jarvis for closing monuments on the National Mall, as well as the agency’s earlier handling of the sequester and its decision to let Occupy Wall Street protesters camp out on federal land. “He blew it on sequestration. He blew it on Occupy, and now he admits he doesn’t even think it was his responsibility to plan to mitigate [the shutdown’s harm].” Asked if he thinks Jarvis should resign, Issa said: “Yes, I believe he should resign. But the better term probably is I think he should retire because he no longer serves the public in their interest.”

Of course, he was only following orders. The fish rots from the head down.

Issa to Jarvis: “The promises you make have no value”:

Here is the full hearing:

Thomas More Law Center Sues DoD For Shutting Down Catholic Services On Navy Base

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The church at Kings Bay Naval Base in happier times.

The Thomas More Law Center has filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in reaction to what they call “an astonishing attack on the religious freedom” of Catholics at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia who have been denied access to religious services on the base and whose priest has been locked out of his chapel.

Because of the priest shortage on military bases, contract priests are employed by the government to ensure that a priest is available when an active duty Catholic Chaplain is not present.

Due to the government shutdown, many GS and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide have been banned from working –  even volunteering  – despite provisions in the Pay Our Military Act that for provides the funding of employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale and well-being of the military. Reportedly, Protestant services continue to take place and only Catholic services have been shutdown.

Via The Thomas More Law Center:

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Father Ray Leonard, a Catholic priest contracted to serve as base chaplain and Fred Naylor, one of Father Leonard’s parishioners and a retired veteran with over 22 years of service. Fr. Leonard is a civilian Catholic Pastor contracted by the Department of Defense (DoD) to serve as a military chaplain at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.

Fr. Leonard who served Tibetan populations in China for 10 years, informed the court in an affidavit; “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.”

On October 4, 2013, Fr. Leonard was ordered to stop performing all of his duties as the base’s Catholic Chaplain, even on a voluntary basis. He was also told that he could be arrested if he violated that order. The approximately 300 Catholic families, including Fred Naylor’s, served by Fr. Leonard at Kings Bay have been unable to attend Mass on base since the beginning of the shutdown.

Additionally, Fr. Leonard was locked out of his on-base office and the chapel. Fr. Leonard was also denied access to the Holy Eucharist and other articles of his Catholic faith. The order has caused the cancellation of daily and weekend mass, confession, marriage preparation classes and baptisms as well as prevented Fr. Leonard from providing the spiritual guidance he was called by his faith to provide.

The submarine base is remotely located.  It consists of roughly 16,000 acres, with 4,000 acres comprised of protected wetlands.  There are approximately 10,000 total people on the base.

A Catholic Church is located off base in the town of St. Mary’s.  However, many of the parishioners both live and work on base and do not own a car and cannot otherwise access transportation.  Therefore a sixteen (16) mile journey to and from the off-base church is simply not possible.  Moreover, many of the sailors have an extremely limited amount of time off.  With their time highly regimented, they are not given a long enough break time for this exceptionally long walk and the Mass service.

Defendants in the lawsuit are the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Department of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, Ray Mabus.

Andrew Montalvo, a Talkshow Producer for KFYO out of  Lubbock, Texas says this attaclk on religious liberties is “pure spite” coming from the White House.

The chapel is small, regularly unmanned, and when not being used for religion is used also for special events, as the religious symbols are easily removed.

In addition to the argument that it costs nothing to keep open, several times I assisted in setting up and tearing down special events at the chapel, not under order, but voluntarily.

There is absolutely no reason why the chapel would be closed other than the White House going out of its way to hurt the religious and trample on their liberties.

This is why Obama appointed the dim-witted Chuck Hagel to be Defense Secretary – he was expected to be a “Yes Man” to the Regime’s far- left  agenda and he is delivering.

Hat tip: Gateway Pundit.

In other news, via Publius Forum, Obama Administration Says Anti-Muslim ‘Hate Speech’ Can be Punished.

Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said that inflammatory material against Islam might be a violation of federal civil rights laws. Such a violation could bring the federal government down on those opposing Islam here in the US.

As reported by The Tullahoma News, Killian and the FBI’s Kenneth Moore hosted a “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society” to “help” the community learn how anti-Islam speech could land an American before authorities.

“This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian told the paper. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”

Who Do You Think Students at U of CO Blame for the Government Shutdown? (Video)

This will be your feelgood story of the day/week maybe even month.

Caleb Bonham of Campus Reform asked random students at the (uber liberal)  University of Colorado who they think is to blame for the government shutdown.

Their answers will surprise you. No — they’ll shock you.

Via The Right Scoop

Where the heck were those kids in 2012?

Meanwhile…

Dingy Harry thinks the Dem plan to blame the shutdown on Republicans, is working swimmingly.

When the Mayor of DC accosted him about unlocking city funds for the District of Columbia, Wednesday, at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Dingy, ever protective of he and Obama’s Masterpiece Shutdown Theater hissed – “don’t screw it up!”

Hat tip: Brian B.

Obama’s America: Tourist Says Yellowstone Rangers Were Armed, Blocked Old Faithful – ‘You Could Feel The Element Of Fear’

More details have come out today about the “Gestapo tactics” used by NPS on seniors at Yellowstone this past week.

Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard thinks the National Park Service’s acquiescence of the Regime’s “Shutdown Theater” may be the Regime’s worst scandal –  and there’s lots of competition for that honor.

The conduct of the National Park Service over the last week might be the biggest scandal of the Obama administration. This is an expansive claim, of course. Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the NSA, the HHS mandate​—​this is an administration that has not lacked for appalling abuses of power. And we still have three years to go.

Even so, consider the actions of the National Park Service since the government shutdown began. People first noticed what the NPS was up to when the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was “closed.” Just to be clear, the memorial is an open plaza. There is nothing to operate. Sometimes there might be a ranger standing around. But he’s not collecting tickets or opening gates. Putting up barricades and posting guards to “close” the World War II Memorial takes more resources and manpower than “keeping it open.”

The closure of the World War II Memorial was just the start of the Park Service’s partisan assault on the citizenry. There’s a cute little historic site just outside of the capital in McLean, Virginia, called the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. They do historical reenactments, and once upon a time the National Park Service helped run the place. But in 1980, the NPS cut the farm out of its budget. A group of private citizens set up an endowment to take care of the farm’s expenses. Ever since, the site has operated independently through a combination of private donations and volunteer workers.

The Park Service told Claude Moore Colonial Farm to shut down.

Via Allahpundit at Hot Air:

Most of what Pat Vaillancourt says here will be familiar to you but the bit about Old Faithful is new to me. Evidently it wasn’t enough to effectively lock elderly tourists inside their hotel. To make doubly sure that no one snuck up to the geyser for a pic while it was erupting, they drove down to the site 10-15 minutes beforehand and stood guard. That’s how petty this was. Presumably even the tourists taking photos from the windows of the hotel ended up with their Old Faithful memento effectively being photobombed by the NPS. Take that, America.

SEE ALSO:

Ace: Yellowstone Park Goon Squads, Media Ignorance, and Media Ideology

“Gestapo Tactics”: Seniors Thrown Out Of Yellowstone After Being Made To Feel Like They Were Under Arrest

yellowstone

An unnamed Park Service official told the Washington Times, that NPS personnel had been instructed to  “make life as difficult for people as we can.”

We have seen that directive being played out all across the country by NPS employees who are willing to do the Regime’s dirty work – punishing ordinary, law abiding Americans,  treating helpless seniors on vacation like criminals – just to score political points for Obama. Very unsettling implications, here.

Via Eagle Tribune:

Pat Vaillancourt went on a trip last week that was intended to showcase some of America’s greatest treasures.

Instead, the Salisbury resident said she and others on her tour bus witnessed an ugly spectacle that made her embarrassed, angry and heartbroken for her country.

Vaillancourt was one of thousands of people who found themselves in a national park as the federal government shutdown went into effect on Oct. 1. For many hours her tour group, which included senior citizen visitors from Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States, were locked in a Yellowstone National Park hotel under armed guard.

The tourists were treated harshly by armed park employees, she said, so much so that some of the foreign tourists with limited English skills thought they were under arrest.

When finally allowed to leave, the bus was not allowed to halt at all along the 2.5-hour trip out of the park, not even to stop at private bathrooms that were open along the route.

“We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control,” said Vaillancourt, who grew up in Lawrence. “It was like they brought out the armed forces. Nobody was saying, ‘we’re sorry,’ it was all like — ” as she clenched her fist and banged it against her forearm.

Vaillancourt took part in a nine-day tour of western parks and sites along with about four dozen senior citizen tourists. One of the highlights of the tour was to be Yellowstone, where they arrived just as the shutdown went into effect.

Rangers systematically sent visitors out of the park, though some groups that had hotel reservations — such as Vaillancourt’s — were allowed to stay for two days. Those two days started out on a sour note, she said.

The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.

“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

No “recreating”? Seriously?

It’s too made they were American citizens. If they were illegal immigrants holding a rally, they would have been welcomed with open arms.

NPS  denied the tourists an opportunity to stop a a full service restroom during their 2.5 hour journey out of Yellowstone?  “Make life as difficult for people as we can.”  

The tour guide accused NPS of using “Gestapo tactics” in the local paper. “The national parks belong to the people,” he told the Enterprise. “This isn’t right.”

As I reported at Breitbart over the weekend, the Department of Interior Website has a page that links to all of its departments’ contingency plans in case of a government shutdown. The National Park Service Contingency Plan is basically the template for all of these daily outrages we’ve been seeing since the shutdown began…

As stated in its original authorizing legislation, the National Park Service mission is to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.

Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately as part of Phase 1 closures. Visitors utilizing overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified to make alternate arrangements and depart the park as part of Phase 2.

Wherever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied. National and regional offices and support centers will be closed and secured, except where they are needed to support excepted personnel. These steps will be enacted as quickly as possible while still ensuring visitor and employee safety as well as the integrity of park resources.

The shutdown process will take place in two phases. Phase 1 includes all activities to notify the public of the closure, secure government records and property, and begin winding down operations to essential activities only. Phase 1 will take place over a day and a half.

Phase 2 will be initiated by the Director and includes the complete shutdown of all concession facilities and commercial visitor services. Overnight visitors will be given two days to make alternate arrangements and depart the parks. At the end of Phase 2 operations are expected to be at the minimum levels defined below. The entire closure process – both phases – will be completed within four days.

You may be wondering how treating seniors at Yellowstone in such a shabby manner helped the National Park Service “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

You might also wonder who wrote the NPS contingency plan, and who authorized it.

Obama made sure to mention Yellowstone by name in an address to the nation on the eve of the shutdown. He warned that the it would have a “very real economic impact, right away”.

“Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on will be hamstrung.”Tourists will find every one of our national parks and monuments … immediately closed and of course the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.”New York’s Statue of Liberty and the National Zoo in Washington, as well as Yellowstone and other national parks, are among the tourist attractions the shutdown will affect.