Military Priests Denied Religious Freedoms During Shutdown

The recent shutdown of the American government had resounding effects upon the lives of countless government employees who were deemed “non-essential” by the federal government. The pay and jobs of these workers had been suspended until the ultimate agreement could be reached by the House of Representatives and Senate, and quite a few issues surfaced as a result. One issue that raised concerns as a possible infringement on the first amendment was the government’s ban on military priests’ ability to offer Mass for service men and women.

 A military priest celebrates the mass for his fellow troops.  (Photo by Steve Skojec)

A military priest celebrates the mass for his fellow troops. (Photo by Steve Skojec, Associated Press)

“The U.S. military has furloughed as many as 50 Catholic chaplains due to the partial suspension of government services, banning them from celebrating weekend Mass. At least one Chaplain was told that if he engaged in any ministry activity, he would be subjected to disciplinary action,” Todd Starnes wrote in a Fox News column.

The ban left Americans with a lot of questions regarding the situation. How could the government have the ability to discipline priests for practicing their faith? What was the reason for the restriction?

Not only did the government deem the priests unnecessary, suspend their jobs, and take away their pay, but they also would not even allow Mass to be offered on a volunteer basis.

During the shutdown, government officials threatened to arrest priests. (Photo by David Edwards)

During the shutdown, government officials threatened to arrest priests. (Photo by David Edwards, Associated Press)

“The constitutional rights of those who put their lives on the line for this nation do not end with a government slowdown,” U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., told The Daily Caller. “It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American’s First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy.”

The government has even gone so far to say that they would arrest any priests trying to administer the Mass.

This temporary ban on the priests’ ability to celebrate Mass comes during what many believe to be one of the most Anti-Catholic administrations in recent memory.

“In American history, there has been no administration more anti-Catholic than the Obama administration,” Bill Donohue of the Catholic League told Fox News. “For them to deny Catholic men and women the opportunity of the sacraments and to deal with their prayerful vocations is really a stunning statement.”

Catholics communities everywhere reacted strongly to the ban, because many feel that it is a restriction of first amendment rights.

“While I am not as well educated on the matter as I should be, I do feel as though the government is infringing upon our first amendment right, and it makes me fearful for what the government could assume they have the power to do next,” Barrett Baumgartner, St. Paul’s School religion teacher and campus minister, said.

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