The ruling, issued June 20, is the latest development in a string of suits by evangelical chaplains who claim they have been discriminated against by naval chaplaincy officials. Nonliturgical chaplains say that Catholic and liturgical Protestants are more likely to be promoted.
In this case, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick M. Sturm, a Navy chaplain based in San Diego, filed suit after being denied promotion three years in a row. After seeking reconsideration by a naval board and filing his suit in federal district court, Sturm was promoted retroactively. The Navy then sought to have the case dismissed.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. Whelan dismissed the part of the suit relating to Sturm's promotions, but decided to consider his claims of stacked selection boards within the Navy.
"The pleadings contain specific and detailed factual allegations which suggest the Navy may be favoring certain religious groups over others," Whelan wrote, "causing an unconstitutional religious preference or an infringement upon plaintiff's rights to religious freedom."
The Navy declined to respond to Whelan's ruling.
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Earlier Christianity Today coverage of the naval bias suits includes:
More Navy Chaplains Allege Discrimination | "We're not on the same ground as the high church group or the Catholics," say evangelicals. (April 18, 2001)
Evangelicals File Bias Suit Against Navy | Claims made that complaints of religious discrimination have been ignored. (May 22, 2000)
The Washington Post covered the first of the suits when originally filed in April 2000.
Former U.S. Navy chaplain suing for reinstatement after allegedly being forced to resign for preaching 'nonpluralism', according to Religion News Service.
Judge Thomas J. Whelan presides over the Southern District of Califonia, but the site has no files on the case.
The Navy Chaplain Corps operates several Web sites, including those for the Navy Chief of Chaplains, the Chaplain Resource Branch, and Chaplain Education.
Other Christianity Today articles about religion in the military include:
The Just-Chaplain Theory | The church need not divorce the military to remain a godly counterculture.(July 27, 2000)
Irreconcilable Differences | The church should divorce the military. (March 6, 2000)
Wiccans Practice on U. S. Bases | Court okays pagan ceremonies. (July 12, 1999)
Military Chaplains Win Speech Case | Military personnel can speak against partial-birth abortion (June 6, 1997)
Military Chaplains Sue Over 'Project Life' Ban | Chaplains ordered to "actively avoid" political comment. (December 9, 1999)
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