Catholic priest sues for access military base during shutdown
October 15th, 2013
08:29 AM ET

Catholic priest sues for access military base during shutdown

(CNN) – 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.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Military • Politics • United States

soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. PK

    If this priest is so interested in caring for the military, he can become a military chaplain. The other part of this is that all military members are allowed to go outside the gate and seek his counseling.

    October 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  2. Tommy O'Reilly

    Has anyone ever thought how this impacts those serving in the military? I will try to come at this from the atheist perspective (though I'm not atheist). Lets say our "spaghetti monster" as you call it is similar to the placebo effect. That service members returning from combat are afraid to speak up to superiors that they are suffering from PTSD, which does happen and they fear fellow service members opinions of them if they approach a physchologist (others may think said service member is weak) EVEN with the 'ok' from their superiors.... A chaplain, is a source of comfort for A LOT of our men and women. Whether or not you believe in God is irrelevant here. At least as an atheist, you can respect the wishes of those brave enough to put their lives on the line. The shut down could have an impact on these people. So I'd ask that you quit bashing each other and focus on who it REALLY effects..... The mental health of many brave men and women.

    October 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  3. Darwin was right

    AMUSING how priests and preachers, who claim their GOD is an ALL-POWERFUL omnipotent ruler of the universe, believe that this guy up in the sky needs their help. Cute! Of course, no one has ever accused Christians of thinking logically.

    October 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  4. bill

    Wonder what Pope "Who am I to judge" has to say on this? Crickets

    October 16, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  5. mickeym1313

    all they have to do is deny themselves, and hate all who is different and they are all being good cathlocs, so no priest or church needed.

    October 16, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  6. R.M. Goodswell

    I have a message from God....I need in there too.

    October 16, 2013 at 3:30 am |
  7. Techrat3D

    Jesus didn't need a church or military base to preach in. Neither did he require accoustic systems to bring his words across to his followers.
    If he wants to preach, tell him to do it where he an his followers can do so without being disturbed, and also respect that he doesn't disturb those that do not share his faith.
    Just use some common sense people, and stop bickering about pointless issues.

    October 16, 2013 at 2:31 am |
    • pasta pete

      At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

      Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

      "u r right. gospel should not be preached where it ain't wanted"

      On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

      October 16, 2013 at 2:39 am |
  8. Aliases

    " Jesus sends the Apostles out to all the nations to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

    October 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Hope this helps

      But they did, in fact God scattered them from Jerusalem using persecution

      October 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
      • Alias

        But apparently not until after jesus died.

        FOllow the lord's commandments, when you get around to it?

        October 16, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  9. Vic

    I believe that law suit is UNNECESSARY! That's overreaching! The restriction is due to a technicality (Shutdown) and NOT a referendum. In this day and age, we can reach out to people in so many ways, best of all in this situation is the Internet.

    October 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Anthony Crispino

      This guy that works with my barber's wife says they have a room with hundreds of refugee children working under the Vatican somewhere and they have been trained to track everything that happens on the internet. You can only hope they have good plumbing and ventilation down there, ya know?

      October 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
      • Gerry from Bayonne

        That sounds crazy, but this guy that plays pool with my wife's groin doctor said the same thing. Kinda creepy, ya know?

        October 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  10. bostontola

    If this man believes in what he is doing, believes it is helping people, I commend him for acting within the law to redress the issue. He is not storming the walls, disrespecting the authorities, he is using the system. Good for him. As an atheist, I think it's all hogwash, but I respect anyone that stands up for what they believe within the law.

    October 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Alias

      I think you are giving him too much credit.
      This looks like a political statement to me.

      October 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
      • Ann

        Of course it's a political statement. He thinks rules don't apply to him.

        October 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
        • bostontola

          If he thought rules didn't apply to him, he would have just tried to sneak in. He is using the courts to decide, that is following the rules.

          October 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
        • Pam

          Rules are imposed on all and agreed upon by most

          October 15, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
      • bostontola

        A careful read of my comment would reveal that no credit was conferred, it began with the word "If". I don't know what is his true motivation. If his intentions are noble, he should protest. Either way, he is doing it right by using the system of laws.

        October 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • mickeym1313

      as an atheist you respect it? Hum, that's odd, I don't respect anyone who surrenders there will to a false god. Their is no case in 5000 years, of religion helping anyone. Theism is a plague on this planet and the fact that we allow them to continues to brainwash people in this country (TAX FING FREE) is BS. Like cops, the only good theist is a d e a d theist.

      October 16, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  11. Reality # 2

    There are few bright spots for this shutdown and keeping clerics off military bases is one of them. Details available as per any request in writing.

    October 15, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Responding to the Pride

      A bright spot for you perhaps, but more likely a morale killer for those who came to rely on the priests services.

      October 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        If you rely on the services of a priest/shaman/witchdoctor/imam etc., you are in need of a psychiatrist.

        October 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Can a psychiatrist give absolution?

          October 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          And in this instance, I am responding to your pride.

          Billions of people all over the world rely on some type of spiritual leadership and services to some extent...are we really all in need of psychiatric care? Does your hubris have no limit?

          October 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          Sure...why not? His mumbo jumbo has to be just as good as this guy's mumbo jumbo. The point is is that his "services" are not a necessity. If you need to "rely" on him, and cannot make due without, morale is the least of your worries. A psychiatrist would help in not relying on the supposed services.

          His job as clergy would be the most non-essential job on the planet, let alone this facility.

          October 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
        • Alias

          Can a psychiatrist give absolution?

          No, they can help you come to terms with the fact that you don't need it.

          October 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          If there are no clerics around, do the people's who "rely" on the clergy lives stop? If someone needs last rights for example, but there is no priest around, does the person not die?

          These "services' and rituals that people perform, are they really a necessity? They are all created by men...most of the rituals that the Catholics do...they aren't in the bible...they were created by men to show their devotion...so are they necessary? And to continue, if you are relying on something that is not a necessity, doesn't your life go on pretty much the same...haven't these people who rely...haven't they learned to do without?

          October 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          So, you're proposing that we live life with only the minimum requirements for functionality?

          October 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Alias

          No Bill,
          The point was clearly to stop treating things that are unnecessary as though they are essential.

          October 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
        • OKfine

          BD. I thought you were a johnny come lately golden crutch seeker and converted to your new addiction later in life. Did you only have a minimum requirements for functionality before your epiphany? So how did you live your life before the catechism told you what to do and how you should think?

          October 15, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
        • Richard Cranium

          No Bill...I am proposing you be prepared for times when you do have to make do with the minimum or less.

          My mother, whenever we "needed" something but didn't have it would say "pretend you're camping and fake it"

          The only time a cleric is really needed, is if he is trained in something OTHER than rituals, like perhaps CPR.

          Isn't it in Thomas somewhere where Jesus basically tells them that there is no need for a church, that he is everywhere (paraphrased but you get it. The rituals may be nice to show devoltion ( making yourself feel good anyway) but they are not ever actually needed, at least if you believe the bible.

          October 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
        • Sara

          OK, let's say the church is a proxy for psychiatric help (for the sake of argument). How would you feel if psychiatrists were locked out? And aren't priests/clergy much cheaper, on average?

          October 16, 2013 at 12:02 am |
      • Akira

        He was due to start 10/1, which means he hadn't had any services yet. Nobody, therefore, would rely on them.

        October 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Dear Members of the Global Militaries,

      Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, popes, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

      Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

      October 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
      • Responding to the Pride

        Like I said, morale killer.

        October 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          Morale killer?? How so? Expose the myths and morale would zoom especially in regards to ending the idiocy of Islam which has cost us trillions of dollars to keep under control for the last thirteen years.

          October 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          A myopic reply...what you seek, if even remotely obtainable, is an evolutionary process that will take more than a generation (or 3) to come to fruition–in the meantime, my point stands.

          October 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          Keep in mind the Arab Spring revolutions. Soon it will be Christian/Muslim Spring revolutions in a sudden burst of social media rational thinking. This blog and many like it have started the ball rolling and it will continue as the ball keeps adding more and more layers into a huge, raging, fast-moving snowball as the citizens of earth finally realize they are wasting their time and money on religion.

          October 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  12. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    This is grandstanding.

    I don't have an issue with a priest wanting to be political, but this is exactly what this is – this case is about politics, not faith.

    October 15, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  13. Honey Badger Don't Care

    Since this priest isn’t military, he is a furloughed civilian employee, there is no reason for him to be at work and can often cause a conflict of interest. This is a non story.

    October 15, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  14. HotAirAce

    Waaaaa! Waaaaaaaa! Charlatan shaman services – perfect example of a non-essential service.

    October 15, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  15. Cleetus Alreetus Alrightus

    I need by boy toy fix!!!! let me in!!!

    October 15, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  16. palintwit

    Many studies done over the years have shown that there is a higher incidence of incest in the southern bible belt than in any other area of the country. Experts attribute this to living in close quarters, such as trailer parks.

    October 15, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  17. Ann

    Well, it's a good thing someone had the sense to realize a priest isn't an "essential" employee.

    October 15, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  18. Lawrence of Arabia

    Apparently "separation of Church and State" only applies to the "Church." The government can intrude wherever it wills.

    October 15, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It has nothing to do with seperation of church and state. With the shut down, security is reduced. It is a security issue, they can't have people, even people that normally would have access, to come and go as they please with reduced security is inappropriate.

      October 15, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Ann

      It has absolutely nothing to do with separation of church and state. He's a government contract worker, nothing more, nothing less. No contract workers are allowed in during a shutdown, whether it's to pave a road or say a mass. He just thinks he's special.

      What a blowhard – figures he's a rookie.

      October 15, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • tallulah13

      What it means, Larry, is that a priest who is a government contract worker is no more special than a janitor who is a government contract worker. Remember, ours is a secular government. Perhaps we should sue them for hiring a priest to begin with. There are plenty of churches for our servicemen and women to attend. We don't need to waste tax dollars on more.

      October 15, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Lawrence of Arabia

      So you all missed the part about him not being able to conduct his duties even voluntarily.
      Yes it does have to do with our Freedom of Religion. The government CANNOT prohibit the free exercise of a person's religion. Look it up. Here, the government is overstepping its bounds when it thinks that it has the authority to tell a clergyman when he can or cannot do his job.

      October 15, 2013 at 10:53 am |
      • JWT

        He can no more enter the base to do his duties voluntarily than could a janitor. There are no different in any way.

        October 15, 2013 at 10:58 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Except that a janitor's 1st Ammendment rights to free exercise of religion have not been violated.

          October 15, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Nobody is stopping him from practicing his religion.
          The priest can distribute as much blood and God flesh as he likes.
          He is being stopped from using government resources to do it (or host it) during the shutdown.

          October 15, 2013 at 11:02 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          I'll never defend catholic doctrine, but where he says: "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." At what point do you read that he is actually being allowed to perform his duties? Maybe I missed something in the white spaces?

          October 15, 2013 at 11:07 am |
        • tallulah13

          Military bases require security. Do you remember that shooting at the Navy Yard? Done by a contract worker. With the cutbacks, security is tighter by necessity. A priest who is a contract worker is not required personnel.

          And don't say a priest is somehow above suspicion. We all know what happens when you start believing that.

          You simply want special privileges for a person because of his religion. Plenty of muslims serve in our armed forces. Would you feel the same if this were an imam instead of a priest? Be honest.

          October 15, 2013 at 11:22 am |
        • tallulah13

          Are you that obtuse, Larry? His ability to practice his religion is not curtailed. He simply can't do it where he wants to.

          October 15, 2013 at 11:24 am |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Acts 5 says "We must obey God rather than men..." The context is that the leaders were urging them not to teach in the name of Jesus, but God's mandate was that they do teach in the name of Jesus. The point is, we must always submit to governmental authority (Romans 13) except in the case where they would prevent someone from preaching / teaching, or worshipping. This country has mandated that they would not do that in the 1st Ammendment, but in this case, they have.

          Therefore, according to both the consti.tution and the Bible, he's got the right to practice his religion. And the consti.tution doesn't forbid him from doing so even on a military base...

          October 15, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          So the Military Police should suspend all normal security protocols for anyone professing to be a shaman?

          Look, the DoD and the DoJ jointly determined that which civilians are considered vital to the functioning of the Armed Forces (and therefore allowed to work during the furlough) is at the discretion of the Military Department Secretaries and Heads of other DoD Components.
          Contracted civilian shamans are NOT Mission Critical personnel.

          October 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Perhaps you're not aware that the Uniform Code of Military Justice operates independently of the Consti/tution.

          October 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
        • Joey

          Also, the Bible only has authority over people who believe it, and should never be used by the government as a reason to do, or not do anything.

          October 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
      • Richard Cranium

        " not being able to conduct his duties even voluntarily"
        That is correct. He is contracted to work, and the contract is suspended during the shutdown. What if I just showed up and volunteered to do some work. They would take me away.
        There are security and liability issues. His freedom of religion is not involved even a little bit.
        He is not being singled out for what his (ridiculous) job is, he is not allowed there while he is not allowed to work. That simple. This is the very definition of a frivolous lawsuit.

        October 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
      • Ann

        Agree w/ tallulah – he's not being restricted from practicing his religion, he just can't do it on the military base. If he walked into my living room and started saying mass, would I be restricting his religious freedom if I threw him out? Of course not. He's free to invite his "flock" to meet somewhere else, I suppose.

        October 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
      • tallulah13

        You really are that obtuse, Larry. Does it hurt to be so painfully ignorant?

        October 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
      • Akira

        I guess you missed the part where it says he hadn't even STARTED his duties yet. Sheesh.

        October 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  19. William


    Did shutdown include shutting down a person's "Faith"?

    October 15, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It isn't possible to shut down someone's faith.
      However, I'd hope that shamanic pomp and circ/umstance are low on the priority list of military services to restore, especially when we're talking about civilian contractors and not uniformed Chaplains.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm sure if someone is desperate, they can get a pass to go to church. One would hope that adults could continue to function even without the constant presence of a religious representative. It would be rather pathetic if the couldn't.

      October 15, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  20. Universe

    In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

    “By the fig and the olive.
    Mount Sinai.
    And this honored town (Mecca).”* 95:1-3

    *95:1-3 The fig, olive, Sinai and Mecca possibly symbolize Adam, Jesus, Moses, Abraham and Muhammad, respectively. Thus, all major religions are represented.

    “We created man in the best design.
    Then turned him into the lowliest of the lowly.
    Except those who believe and lead a righteous life; they receive a reward that is well deserved.
    Why do you still reject the faith?
    Is God not the Most Wise, of all the wise ones?” 95:4-8

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    October 15, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Which God?

      Unaduterated hogwash.

      October 15, 2013 at 11:51 am |
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