A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted via email by Chaplain Robert Nay. He wanted to discuss this particular story. Shortly after I started this blog in 2008, I came across a story about religious harassment towards a Jewish chaplain. The website, truthout, posted a story about Chaplain Jeff Goldman who alleged anti-Semitic harassment at the hands of his fellow Christian chaplains as well as his immediate superior officer in his chain of command.
He told Jason Leopold that at a mandatory meeting, Nazi uniforms and swastikas were displayed, and anti-Semitic comments were made. He named Chaplain Robert Nay as one of the perpetrators of this mess. He also alleged that another Jewish chaplain, Chaplain Lapp told him to ignore all of this and that he would have to work with the bigots. Jason Leopold interviewed Rabbi Lapp who told him that sure there were a few problems with certain Chaplains, but that Rabbi Goldman would have to learn to work with them.
Chaplain Nay wrote that many details of the story were incorrect and wanted to correct any errors from the original story from truthout. I asked him if he would answer a few questions. He agreed. I also searched the internet for any hints of links to neo-nazi and white supremacy sites. I found none, not even a hint of Christian supremacy at all. I checked out his thesis for his master’s degree, and an interview. Other than some nonsense about the latest “spiritual fitness” craze that seems to be the latest fad in the chaplain corps, there is nothing remotely controversial in his past writings.
Here are my questions and his answers:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Below are my answers to your questions. Thank you again.
Chaplain (LTC) Robert Nay
1) What was your working relationship with Rabbi Goldman? Very professional. We both were Captains in a Corps Support Group.
2) What was your impression of the working environment of non-Christian chaplains at Ft Stewart? Commanders and Chaplains were very sensitive to non-Christian chaplains and provided for the free exercise of all faith groups.
3) Rabbi Lapp is quoted in the article that he was aware of anti-Semitic remarks directed towards Rabbi Goldman by yourself and others. These allegations were supported by the Army’s own investigation. What happened? I never saw the army investigation and I am not aware of any anti-Semitic comments made at Fort Stewart.
4) What happened at the mandatory interfaith prayer breakfast in 2001 where the Nazi uniforms and swastikas were displayed? It was reported that inappropriate jokes were made and no one made any attempt to stop it.
First, the interfaith prayer breakfast was not mandatory. Second, there were not any Nazi uniforms or swastikas at the prayer breakfast. There were historical U.S. uniforms. I did not hear any inappropriate jokes at the prayer breakfast.
5) What has been the reaction of people that know you to the story?
At the time, it was very embarrassing that a Chaplain went AWOL at a time of war.
6) What are you doing now? Other than the letter to the Jewish Voice, what are you doing to explain what happened? And why after 3 years did you contact me to explain your version on the events that happened? Have you offered you version of events to Mr. Leopold? He writes that you hung up on him when he called you for comment. Several years ago, the head of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army told us that we have a right to correct falsehoods in the media and in blogs. Since that time I approached those who ran the article from Truthout.org. News agencies such as Salon have removed Jason’s articles in the past because of his questionable sources. Jason has every right to conduct his research and provide the facts and his analysis. I respect those news agencies that have provided my unedited comments or have removed his false article. The reason why I contacted you, is that your blog is being used by spam to bring an old false article to the top of the search engine. Jason’s article brings a very embarrassing moment for Rabbi Goldman, but also a very painful moment for me and this is why. My life has been devoted to remembering the victims of the Holocaust.
7) Do you think the Public Affairs office at Ft Stewart did you a favor by declining to comment on the matter? Do you think it hurt or helped matters by not talking to Jason Leopold? I cannot comment what Fort Stewart did or didn’t do. I can tell you that Jason never called me. My question to Jason and others who initially ran with the story is where is the law suit you said was in the works? The fact that it has been almost ten years since Rabbi Goldman went AWOL, and over three years since Jason’s article there is no law suit because there is no case. Rabbi Goldman went AWOL because he ran from the new Hamon. Proof that he didn’t care about the victims of the Holocaust and when it came to defending them again, he ran.
8) I will be checking out your story with others who are familiar with it. I will also have their comments as well in the story, but I will place your answers as they are in my post. Will this make you uncomfortable? I will also give you a chance to rebut anyone as well. Thank you for posting my answers.
I was getting ready to to post the above story, as Robert Nay seemed a pleasant enough fellow via email. But then I received a strange email from him. Since I don’t post emails without permission from the author, I will paraphrase his email. After first stating he thought that everyone regardless of religious viewpoint should be treated the same, he went on a rant stating that Muslim extremists and secular humanists were in cahoots trying to destroy the United States.
I replied with the following email.
Sorry to be so late getting back to you, but to be honest, your last email has me a bit perplexed. I would be happy to take up your invitation should I be in the Fort Lee area.
“Personally I believe that the chaplaincy is perhaps a very visible representation of the freedom and toleration we have in our country. We have many different faith groups working along side one another, respecting the differences yet not forcing no one to compromise.
I agree with the above completely, but your next paragraph is somewhat confusing.
“In contrast to this, I believe that our current enemy with the war on terror who believes in only one faith with no toleration of others, or those who do not allow any faith but the faith of secular humanism, both of these enemies, foreign and domestic do not believe in freedom and toleration.”
You seem to be equating non-religious humanists with murderous Islamic bomber cultists. Why? Is it because the secular humanists are non-religious or is it because they are humanists?
I would think that as a chaplain that you would remember that many religious groups have a basis in humanism. In Christianity, this is reflected in such denominations such as the Quakers and other such groups that are works based. This is also reflected in the sermon on the mount and the story of the loaves and the fishes in the Bible.
Humanism is simply the position that people are more important than dogma or ideology.
Or are you claiming that simply being non-religious makes someone an enemy of the state? Or is it the label “secular”? Because remember, someone can also be for a secular government and be religious as well. The founding fathers are an excellent example of a group of men ranging from the nearly non-religious like Jefferson to highly religious men getting together to create a secular government (i.e. a government not run or controlled by a religion).
And what about other groups that are explicitly “secular humanist” like Humanistic Judaism? When some of my relatives go to temple at a Humanistic Jewish Synagogue are they enemies of the state as well? And what about the 10 percent of the US population and 21 percent of the Armed Forces that identifies as non-religious, are they enemies as well?
You sound like a nice guy, but I sincerely hope that you don’t get seduced by the easy answers and scapegoating that is found in conspiracy theories. My husband watched a friend get involved with a sovereign citizen group, stopped paying his taxes, go to prison, get out of prison, and ended up alone in a run down house surrounded by books and magazines all espousing conspiracy thinking. It seems once you succumb to that sort of thinking, all conspiracies seem believable.
He then replied with an email sort of taking back some of what he had said earlier, but then trying to say that he has been persecuted in the past. WTF? White, male, Evangelical Christian chaplain officer in the Army and he thinks he is persecuted ? I replied with the following.
I plan to update my blog this weekend. What do you mean that “secular humanist have taken over the public square”? The public square usually means public property (owned by the taxpayers), not private property open to the public. Government owned property should always be neutral towards religion and it should not promote one belief system over another.
If one religion can place their message in the public square, then all other beliefs and opinions can as well. In other words, if a courthouse posts the 10 commandments (which version?), then competing ideas can be posted as well. Perhaps it would be better for religious ideas to remain in the private square rather than being endorsed by the government in the public square.
Are you aware that the term “secular humanism” simply means a philosophy of humanism motivated by care for others instead of religious values or motivations? Someone can be considered a secular humanist and be religious as well. Now there are organizations such as The Council for Secular Humanism that advocate a moral non-religious stance. You say that you have endured persecution at the hands of secular humanists. Who has done this? What organization has done this?
Telling me that some secular humanist has somehow persecuted you sounds very improbable to me. You are in an organization where you are a member of the majority gender, majority race, and majority religion. You are in a position of authority within that organization as well. What happened? We in the non-religious community are fairly serious about calling out those members who are acting like jerks.
Now, MRFF has received many complaints about military superiors trying to coerce their subordinates into adopting the superior’s beliefs. 96% of those complaints come from Christians. These complaints allege that the complainants (mostly mainline Christians) are having problems with other Christians, mainly from evangelical and charismatic denominations, not from the non-Christians. They are being told and judged as not being the right sort of Christian.
While I have had someone at a previous job place religious pamphlets on my desk and threaten to shoot me if I did not become a Christian. Luckily my boss stood up for me and the guy was transferred. I did not want him fired and later showing up at my door for revenge. This is not persecution but the actions of a bully and a bigot.
When I went through Air Force Officer Training school, we had a system of merits and demerits which could cancel each other out. You needed 5 merits to get off base privileges. I found out that if you went to Christian religious services, you could earn those merits. Non-Christian services did not count. There was not even an option of attending Unitarian services.
I went to a Methodist service with my roommate and mentioned this when I was there. There was also the chance of earning more merits for attending bible study, which I did. Needless to say, the chaplain ended up being a bit irritated by my questions. These questions were chosen because they would cause more questions and because they could not be answered easily. The chaplain asked why I was there and I answered that I was there because I both love to discuss theology and because of the merits. He told me he would give me the merits without church attendance. He seemed like an okay guy. I think he was uncomfortable with the whole merits for church attendance thing.
But I don’t consider my self persecuted. I can work and carry on with my life without fear of getting put in prison or killed. My husband and myself are giving a friend of a former foster child of our a home until she graduates from high school. She was nearly killed by her brother because she is gay. He is a highly religious conservative evangelical christian who attempted to hurt his younger sister by running her over with his truck. It has taken her nearly a year to get over the trauma. She doesn’t consider herself persecuted either. We have simply run into jerks and bigots.
As far as MRFF claiming conspiracy theories, I don’t really think so. MRFF is simply trying to get the Armed Services to follow their own rules regarding religious coercion. The problems seem to be coming from senior officers and chaplains from a couple of endorsing agencies.
These agencies such as The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches do not have college educated chaplains and they seem to regard military units as mission fields. These chaplains come from heavily charismatic denominations affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Far from being some secretive conspiracy, this is a large religious movement with about 500 million adherents worldwide. Most members of this movement would probably be appalled with the behavior of some of their leaders such as Jim Ammerman. He leads The Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and preaches hate and anti-government conspiracy theories. Check him out and you will see full on crazy.
Sorry for the long letter, but wanted you to see where I am coming from and some background information.
I have not heard back from Chaplain Nay, perhaps he does not have a good reply to my letter. Interesting.
I can easily see why others may have a problem working with Chaplain Nay. He seems to have a habit of saying offensive statements towards others. He came across at first as a nice enough fellow, but after a few emails, started with accusing nonbelievers of trying to destroy the United States. Then he started with the “persecution” attitude. I think that Christians who really are persecuted in parts of the world would see him as a whiny brat. I’m sure he would embarass them deeply.
I was contacted via email by Jason Leopold from Truthout. Look for more details to come out of this story.