Since the government shutdown has barred non-military Catholic chaplains and priests from military installations, thousands of Catholic servicemembers had to go without mass and other religious services. Now, a Catholic priest has sued that federal government for being denied base access, CNN reported.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal district court by Father Ray Leonard, claims that his First Amendment rights have been violated. According to the news source, Leonard is a newly contracted civilian employee who was scheduled to begin his religious duties at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia Oct. 1. While thousands of civilian Defense Department employees have been recalled by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel since the start of the shutdown, Catholic clergy who provide their services to military bases remain on furlough, the news outlet stated.
News broke that non-active duty Catholic clergy were blocked from accessing military bases shortly after the shutdown began when John Schlageter, General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, published an Op-Ed on the organization's official website. Schlageter wrote that Catholic priests and chaplains were subject to arrests if they entered a military base during the shutdown.
Schlageter added that there is currently a shortage of active-duty Catholic priests, who compose only 8 percent of the chaplain corps.