Army chaplains at the US army's 101st Airborne Division have been accused of dismantling programs to serve religious Jewish soldiers on-base, Army Times reported.
The chaplains fired all of the longstanding Jewish lay leaders at Fort Campbell, Kentucky without providing any reason for the dismissals. No replacements were appointed, ending the holding of Shabbat services for Jewish soldiers and their families.
Jeanette Mize, her husband, Curt Mize, and their son, Lawrence, had served as the lay leaders for Jewish worship at Fort Campbell until February 28, 2018, when they were fired without explanation by the division chaplain, Col. John Murphy, and his deputy chaplain, Lt. Col. Sean Wead. The family had served as the Jewish lay leaders at the base since 1984.
“This is the first time in at least 34 years that the Jewish soldiers and their families have been denied weekly Shabbat worship at Fort Campbell,” Jeanette Mize told Army Times.
“There is no synagogue in the Fort Campbell area or the nearest towns of Hopkinsville or Clarksville,” she said. “The nearest synagogue is located in Nashville, more than 50 miles away.”
Mize called Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who filed a complaint with the base.
Robert Jenkins, Fort Campbell’s director of public affairs, said the post is now investigating the allegations against the chaplains.
Mize also said that the chaplains refused to support the holding of a Passover Seder on the first night of Passover because it would 'conflict' with the observance of Good Friday by Catholic soldiers. The chaplains told her that the seder would receive no advertising or support.
“They had to celebrate Passover on a non-Passover date,” Weinstein said. “That’s like telling Christians ‘I know you want to do Christmas on Dec. 25, but it’s more convenient if you do it on Dec. 7, so we can save money.’ ”
According to Mize, her work environment deteriorated after a man she described as a "fundamentalist Christian" was appointed the Jewish lay leaders’ chaplain sponsor last summer. She said that he bullied the Jewish lay leaders and threatened to take over the religious decisions for Jewish worship.
“I made appeals to replace him,” Mize said. “Nothing was done about this. [He] enjoyed his position and exerted his authority.”
Weinstein said that the inquiry has become a 15-6 investigation, which shows that the army is taking the allegations against the chaplains very seriously.
“About 10 percent of the cases I file with the Army become 15-6 investigations,” he said, noting that he is pleased with the speed with which the investigation was launched and the seriousness with which the army is dealing the case.