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Prayers answered: Discrimination suit by chaplains reinstated

A federal appeals court has granted a request by some 65 current and former military chaplains to reinstate their discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Navy.

The chaplains argue that the Navy discriminated against non-liturgical Protestant members of the clergy. They claim they were promoted at a significantly lower rate than liturgical Protestants and Catholics.

Liturgical members of the clergy make use of more standard church rituals in their services.

A U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit and ordered hearings held to determine if the chaplains are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. A lower court had ruled that the suit was unlikely to succeed and that the chaplains lacked standing to bring the claims.

The court stated in a written opinion that the plaintiffs are asserting that certain Navy policies enable discrimination by chaplains who serve on selection boards recommending promotions.

The court noted that that the chaplains' allegations are "sufficiently non-speculative to support standing" because the chaplains who serve on the boards and vote on secret ballots regarding promotions might be more inclined to discriminate against members outside their denominations "under the cover of secret ballots."

The dispute is a long-running one. The group of chaplains initially filed their discrimination claims in 1999.

Apparently the selection boards are set up so that just one member voting in secret can veto a promotion.

The attorney for the chaplains said the plaintiffs are trying to ensure that the playing field is level.

When a group of employees feel it has been discriminated against by an employer, it will often turn to an employment law attorney who can discuss this complex area of the law with the group and go over their legal options.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Court Reinstates Navy Chaplain in Discrimination Lawsuit," Chad Bray, Nov. 2, 2012

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