Lawsuit Claims Dept of Veterans Affairs Discriminated Against Conservative Chaplains

Ken Klukowski is Director, Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. This article appeared on, November 9, 2013.

On November 8, a Christian group sued President Obama's U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through the VA's Secretary Eric Shinseki for religious discrimination.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Conservative Baptist Association v. Shinseki, alleges details of incidents where conservative Christians were denigrated for their orthodox beliefs while attending the Clinical Pastoral Education Center, run by the VA. It claims that on more than one occasion, the instructor barked, "Do not quote Scripture in this class!" when the plaintiffs expressed their religious beliefs on issues discussed in class.

The complaint specifies instances where this occurred, such as when the VA instructor led exchanges on whether God is a man versus a woman, whether the Darwinian theory of evolution is a fact that Christians must accept, and whether salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ.

Two chaplains -- Dan Klender and Steven Firtko -- were expelled from the chaplains' program allegedly because of their traditional and orthodox Christian beliefs. The lawsuit seeks their reinstatement as VA chaplains, along with a declaration that their religious liberty was violated by the VA's actions. It also seeks a federal court order that the VA cease discriminating against chaplains on the basis of those persons' sincerely-held Christian beliefs.