"The doors to the Kings Bay Chapel were locked on Oct. 4, 2013, with the Holy Eucharist, Holy water, Catholic hymn books and vessels all locked inside," says a lawsuit filed Monday by the Thomas More Law Center. "Father Leonard and his parishioners ... were prohibited from entering."
Catholics believe Jesus Christ is present in this world in many ways, but uniquely and most especially in the Eucharist.
"In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained," says the Catholic Catechism. "This presence is called 'real' -- by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real,' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: That is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."
What the Obama administration did by locking up the Kings Bay Chapel -- and the Holy Eucharist there -- and preventing a priest and his congregation from entering was literally an attempt to lock Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, away from those who seek him.
Obviously, the Obama administration could not ultimately succeed in achieving such a thing, but -- just as obviously -- it is trying.
This administration has advanced abortion on demand, which is the deliberate slaughter of innocent human life. It has advanced same-sex marriage, which runs counter to the very nature of men and women and is an attack on the natural God-given right of a child to a father and mother. It has also declared that Christians who seek to obey the commandment of "thou shall not kill" must nonetheless buy health insurance for themselves, their families and their employees that covers abortion-inducing drugs.
In responding to the many lawsuits Christian business owners and organizations have filed against the administration seeking to stop this health insurance regulation, the administration is not arguing that the regulation does not force Christians to act against their faith and their moral convictions.
It concedes that. Instead, the administration boldly argues it has the power to force Christians to act against their faith and their moral convictions -- even when it means forcing a Christian to be complicit in the destruction of innocent life.
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.