Terry Jeffrey

Now comes the case of Father Ray Leonard, a civilian priest, who serves on a contract bases as the Catholic chaplain at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.

"Father Leonard was told that if he practiced his Catholic faith on the Naval Base, even on a volunteer basis, he would be subject to arrest," says the priest's lawsuit.

In brief, here is what happened:

Just before the government shutdown, Congress passed the Pay Our Military Act. This act said that during a shutdown, the government would continue to pay Defense contractors who "are providing support to members of the Armed Forces." After consulting with Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel determined that this was limited to contract employees "whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of covered military members during the lapse of appropriations."

Hagel decided that civilian "family support" and "behavioral health" contractors met this standard, but that civilian Catholic priests serving as chaplains at U.S. military facilities around the globe did not.

The Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services says during the shutdown, including through the last two Sundays, about 50 civilian Catholic priests who were working as contract chaplains have been prohibited from administering the sacraments on U.S. military bases.

Father Leonard is representative of these priests. "Father Leonard wishes to continue practicing his faith and ministering to his faith community free of charge on the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay during the government shutdown, but has been told that he is subject to arrest if he does so," says the priest's lawsuit.

"In China, I was disallowed from performing public religious services due to the lack of religious freedom in China," Father Leonard, who served the Tibetan population for a decade, said in a statement. "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."

Under the Obama administration, Catholic chaplains are treated as if this were a People's Republic, and members of our military, who risk their lives to defend our liberty, are now prevented from giving thanks for it in God's own house.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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