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Navy Chaplain Accused of Violating Constitution For Encouraging Personnel to 'Lead Like Jesus'

US Constitution

A US Navy chaplain is being accused of violating the Constitution for promoting a 12-week lecture series entitled "Lead Like Jesus."

Cmdr. Richard Clay Smothers, based out of Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, emailed a flyer about the series to military leaders, Navy Times reports. 

Last Friday, retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Marty France urged the base commander to "move quickly on this blatant violation of the Constitution as well as the DoD regulations."

Smothers has been accused of crossing the line that separates the church and the state and now the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is asking that base commander Capt. Ian Johnson investigate the incident. 

France told Johnson to, "Please, swiftly and effectively put an end to this Constitutional mess and make sure that, as I'm sure you agree, there is no single religious perspective that is considered a necessary or sufficient condition for leadership in your or any command."

Elizabeth Baker, a spokeswoman for Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, told CBN News that "the information was provided during the regularly scheduled monthly tenant command meeting the Commanding Officer hosts where base information is regularly passed and followed up with flyers and details. This is a common and regular occurrence for every department, not just religious services."

The flyer was not meant to endorse any one religion or religious organization. It was an announcement for those interested in obtaining information for a religious education opportunity.

Baker added that "Naval Station Newport's command religious programs support the command mission by fostering the religious, spiritual, moral and ethical well-being of military personnel and their families by providing opportunities for worship, religious education, fellowship and counseling."

But MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein said that Smothers "weaponized Christianity" in his message and called for those behind the discussions to be "visibly and aggressively investigated and punished. 

"Nothing could be more disruptive to good order and discipline and unit cohesion than a message like this," Weinstein said.

First Liberty Institute General Counsel Mike Berry said that Weinstein is spreading his own "mythical version" of the Constitution with "dubious claims" such as this.

"Jesus was a leader," Berry said. "It's perfectly legal to study his leadership. In fact, some of our military leaders would do well to study Jesus' leadership a bit more. None other than our first commander-in-chief, George Washington, looked to Jesus as a model of leadership."

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