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Navy chaplains use states in discrimination suit
Ken Walker, Baptist Press
August 25, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

Navy chaplains use states in discrimination suit

Navy chaplains use states in discrimination suit
Ken Walker, Baptist Press
August 25, 2011

WASHINGTON – The attorney for 65 chaplains – including 16

Southern Baptists –who claim the U.S. Navy discriminates against evangelicals

believes a new statistical analysis buttresses their legal efforts, which have

been in court for 12 years.

Virginia attorney Arthur Schulcz says the statistical analysis shows that past

promotion boards awarded favorable treatment to members from the Naval chief of

chaplains’ denomination, regardless of who holds the office.

His clients are objecting to the chief of chaplains or his deputy sitting as

president of Chaplain Corps promotion boards, which select candidates for

lieutenant commander, commander, captain and rear admiral.

“When you have 48 people who share the (chief’s) denomination and 40 get

promoted … that’s evidence,” said Schulcz, who has filed a motion for a

temporary injunction to halt the next promotion board hearings.

“This is the first time we are faced with the answer to the impact of the chief

of chaplains (on promotions). It is a serious and statistically significant

difference in promotion rank for those denominations who had a chief and those

who didn’t.”

Promotion boards don’t start meeting until next February. However, since

preliminary procedures get underway with the new federal fiscal year Oct. 1,

Schulcz hopes to halt their schedule in the near future.

Filed in U.S. District Court in late July, the motion asks that the court stop

the Navy from:

  • Allowing the chief or a deputy to preside over promotion

    boards.

  • Using chaplains as promotion board members and helping decide who gets

    benefits until the court rules on a pending motion in the case or until the

    Navy provides procedural guarantees precluding denominational favoritism.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina has been hearing the cases. First filed on

behalf of a single evangelical endorsing entity in 1999 and expanded by various

lawsuits, they have since been consolidated into a single case.

A spokesman for the Navy declined to comment to Baptist Press about the

injunction filing.

“This is a simple case about Navy denominational favoritism and prejudice in

the award of government benefits,” the motion said.

“It is now in its twelfth year,” the motion said, “despite the simplicity of

its major theme and question: does the [First Amendment’s] Establishment Clause

forbid the Navy from preferring some denominations over others when awarding

government benefits?”

Because of the allegation of denominational preference, Schulz said the court

is likely to require that the Navy explain why its procedures don’t violate the

Establishment Clause.

His motion said that statistical analysis shows that the Naval Chaplain Corps

consistently demonstrates a preference for Catholics first and liturgical

Protestants second.

Each group typically receives a third of promotions, with non-liturgicals and

special faith groups receiving the remaining third, the motion said.

“Detailed analysis of the Chaplain Corps’ management shows the faith group

clusters (FGC) system hides the Navy’s denominational preferences and

prejudice,” the motion said. “Theologically more conservative denominations

have been treated prejudicially when compared with those of more liberal

beliefs within the FGCs.”

As an example, it cites Romans Catholics receiving promotions more than 93

percent of the time from 1985-2000.

Members of three other liturgical groups earned promotions 81 to 86 percent of

the time from 1985-2000, much higher rates than Southern Baptists and other

evangelicals.

The alleged bias involving the chief of chaplains covers a 20-year period from

1981 to 2001, when eight different persons served in the office.

Statistician Harald Leuba of Potomac, Md., who completed an updated analysis

earlier this year, found that 40 of 48 candidates who came from the same

denomination were selected for promotion to commander, or approximately 83

percent. When candidates did not match the denomination, only 210 of 287 were

selected, a rate of 73 percent.

“The fact is this success rate … is statistically significantly higher (by two

standard deviations using a simple binomial test) than the … success rate which

was experienced by the candidates who differed from the chief of chaplains,”

said Leuba, who has performed statistical analysis for a dozen businesses and

agencies, including the Navy and the plaintiffs.

Leuba found a wider disparity for promotions to captain. Twenty-two of 28

candidates from the same denomination as the chief of chaplains were promoted,

or nearly 79 percent. Only 224 of 444 candidates from outside the chief’s

denomination made captain, or just over 50 percent.

“This rate is unexplainable except by the chief’s influence on selection,

retention and promotion boards … because it is a characteristic of all chiefs,

regardless of denomination,” the motion said.

Promotions are just one aspect of the career benefits some denominational

representatives receive, the motion said. Among other benefits it cited are

continuing on active duty after an initial tour, key assignments and higher pay

rates.

“My clients are not against Catholics per se,” said Schulcz, of Vienna, Va. “We’re

against favoritism which has no compelling purpose. The plaintiffs are in favor

of free exercise (of religion) and want to see that met.”

While most of the plaintiffs have left the Navy, many are involved in ministry

and could earn back pay and be reinstated if the lawsuit is successful, Schulcz

said.

However, he said the plaintiffs’ leading goal is to reform the system, which he

described as ripe for abuse because of secret votes and lack of accountability.

“The focus is changing the system,” Schulcz said. “It’s line officers who rate

the chaplains and it’s line officers who ought to select them. We simply want a

level playing field.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Walker is a freelance writer from Huntington, W.Va., who

has written periodically about the evangelical chaplains’ lawsuits against the

Navy since 2002.)