Men Not Allowed to Say 'Jesus' in Chaplain Class: Lawsuit

Two men claim the San Diego VA religiously persecuted them

By Andie Adams and Steven Luke
|  Friday, Nov 8, 2013  |  Updated 6:05 PM PDT
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The Two men claim they were religiously persecuted by the Department of Veterans Affairs San Diego during a class meant for chaplains. NBC 7's Steven Luke has the story.

The Two men claim they were religiously persecuted by the Department of Veterans Affairs San Diego during a class meant for chaplains. NBC 7's Steven Luke has the story.

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Two men claim they were religiously persecuted by the Department of Veterans Affairs San Diego during a class meant for chaplains, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

In its lawsuit, the Conservative Baptist Association of America alleges that two of its members – a retired Army major and a sailor-- were repeatedly told by an instructor not to use Jesus’ name or quote the Bible as they went through the VA-run class, which applicants must take to become a chaplain inside the hospital.

"Anytime you tell somebody you can’t pray in Jesus' name and you’re a chaplain, you are acting inappropriately because you're regulating and censoring their religious rights,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, John B. Wells.

But the program’s supervisor says the two men were bullying other classmates and refusing to honor other faith groups.

In a statement, the VA says the supervisor is question is a Southern Baptist of 35 years who is required to follow the VA Handbook.

But according to the VA's website, that supervisor is endorsed by the United Church of Christ, a more liberal church billing itself as inclusive to everyone.

One of the men dropped out of the program, and the other was eventually dismissed.

“Nobody, especially anyone in the armed forces or working for the federal government, should ever be required or coerced to abandon their religious beliefs," Wells said.

The plaintiff’s attorney says they're filing suit against the VA for fostering an atmosphere where the persecution can happen and not doing enough to stop it.

Attorneys for the VA say the defense will most likely be handled by the Department of Justice, but no one was available yet for comment.

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