Chaplains Mocked, Forced out of VA Program for Their Christian Beliefs

By:  Dave Bohon
Chaplains Mocked, Forced out of VA Program for Their Christian Beliefs

Two military chaplains are suing the federal Veterans Affairs department after they said they were mocked for their Christian beliefs and forced out of a Veterans Affairs chaplain training program.

In 2012, Lieutenant Commander Dan Klender, a Navy chaplain, and Major Steven Firtko, a retired Army chaplain, enrolled in the VA’s Clinical Pastoral Education Center program in San Diego. The class is a requirement for chaplains wishing to serve at VA hospitals. The two chaplains are members of the Conservative Baptist Association of America, a denomination that places a high priority on Scripture and faith in Christ.

The two chaplains charge that they were ridiculed and taunted by the program's director, Nancy Dietsch, a VA employee with a reputation for antagonism toward evangelical Christians, charged John Wells, the attorney representing the two chaplains in the suit. “She’s been very, very critical of Christians,” Wells told Fox News. “Instead of teaching anything dealing with faith issues, she’s dealing with a holistic, humanistic approach. It’s the idea that the spirit comes from within.”

The lawsuit, filed against Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, charges, among other things, that Dietsch said VA policy forbade chaplains from praying in Jesus' name, and that chaplains could not quote Scripture in her class.

Specifically, during one class discussion on faith, Major Firtko cited the Scripture saying that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” According to Fox News, “Dietsch told the chaplain he was not allowed to quote from the Bible in her classroom.”

During one class session, Dietsch said that she believed God could be either man or woman. But when Firtko referred to “The Lord’s Prayer,” which refers to “our Father which art in heaven,” Dietsch “angrily pounded her fist on the table and shouted, ‘Do not quote Scripture in this class,’” the lawsuit contends.

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