Shutdown theater: Some military chaplains could be arrested for saying mass on bases
I want to see it happen, don't you? Hauling a priest off the altar in the middle of a mass because some bureaucrat was told to make 'em howl.
In a stunning development, some military priests are facing arrest if they celebrate mass or practice their faith on military bases during the federal government shutdown.
"With the government shutdown, many [government service] and contract priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work - not even to volunteer," wrote John Schlageter, the general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA, in an op-ed this week. "During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so."
According to its website, the Archdiocese for the Military Services "provides the Catholic Church's full range of pastoral ministries and spiritual services to those in the United States Armed Forces."
In his piece, Schlageter worries about this restriction as Sunday nears. "If the government shutdown continues through the weekend, there will be no Catholic priest to celebrate Mass this Sunday in the chapels at some U.S. military installations where non-active-duty priests serve as government contractors," he wrote.
Because of the lack of active-duty Catholic chaplains, the military relies on hiring civilian priests to serve as government service and contract ministers. Those civilian priests are not allowed on the bases during a shutdown, Schlageter wrote.
One Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee told The Daily Caller on Friday that this "crosses a constitutional line."
"The constitutional rights of those who put their lives on the line for this nation do not end with a government slowdown," Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, a graduate of West Point and an Army veteran, said in a Friday statement. "It is completely irresponsible for the president to turn his back on every American's First Amendment rights by furloughing military contract clergy."
Added Pompeo: "The President's strategy during the slowdown, just as during the sequestration, is to create as much pain as possible. However, this action crosses a constitutional line of obstructing every U.S. service member's ability to practice his or her religion."
Just the idea of making it illegal for a priest to minister to his flock is about as chilling as it gets. I doubt whether there are any of these contracted priests who wouldn't say mass for free, thus obviating the necessity of shutting down their services. The only reason then, for this gross violation of religious freedom is that someone wants to inflict unnecessary pain on our servicemen simply to make the point that shutting down the government is a bad, bad thing.
OK - we get it. Now open the damn chapels and let the priests do their job.