Chaplain Modder

The U.S. Navy’s decision to exonerate Chaplain Modder ends a seven-month legal battle that threatened to end Modder’s career of 20 years. Even more importantly, this decision affirms the religious liberty of military chaplains to teach, minister and counsel according to their belief system—a freedom that should never be contested.

“This is not only a great day for Chaplain Modder, but for every American who supports religious freedom in our military,” said Michael Berry, Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs for Liberty Institute.

Liberty Institute thanks its supporters, whose donations enabled Chaplain Modder to enjoy the highest caliber legal representation from volunteer attorneys at Wilmer Hale at no charge to our client. This representation—which otherwise may not have been obtainable—was instrumental in upholding the religious liberty of Chaplain Modder. And that pro bono legal counsel was made possible only through the generosity of Liberty Institute’s donors.

“We always knew that when the facts came to light, the Navy would exonerate Chaplain Modder,” Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford said. “Religious liberty is our first freedom and essential for our men and women in uniform. We are pleased the Navy agrees and protected religious liberty here. We hope this sends a strong signal to military commanders—violated religious liberty will not be tolerated.”

Please celebrate this enormous victory with us. And thank you for standing—through your financial support—to help us deploy more attorneys and win more such cases that restore religious liberty across America.



Original Case file information


Case Files
Detachment for Cause
Response to Detachment for Cause

Denial of Request for 
Accommodation 3/17/15



In an act of unlawful persecution, the U.S. Navy is attacking Chaplain Wes Modder, a military hero who put his life on the line to serve our country as a decorated U.S. Marine for 4 years, then as a Navy chaplain for the past 15 years.  As a chaplain, Modder deployed overseas in support of Navy SEALs multiple times during the War on Terror.

Liberty Institute has been retained to represent him.


Chaplain Wes Modder is a decorated Navy chaplain who has been entrusted with the spiritual well-being of the Navy’s most elite forces. His commanding officers praised him as a “national asset” with “charismatic leadership and sound judgment.”  One called him “the best of the best.”

A respected and decorated chaplain with a doctorate in military ministry, Chaplain Modder had a spotless, even exceptional, 15-year record. So why is the Navy suddenly trying to end his career, just months shy of his retirement eligibility?

Earlier in his chaplaincy career, Chaplain Modder shared
about his spiritual service in a Navy Chaplains Corps recruitment video.


A four-star general was so impressed with Chaplain Modder that he personally requested the chaplain be transferred to Goose Creek, South Carolina to serve the students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command.

Chaplain Modder continued his exemplary service.  A very small number of sailors requested private, pastoral care and counseling sessions during which they asked him about certain matters of personal conduct and belief.  Chaplain Modder’s answers, as always, were in line with the teachings of his endorsing denomination, as required by his denomination and protected by federal law.

Much to Chaplain Modder's surprise, however, a handful of sailors complained, because they disagreed with the biblical views Chaplain Modder expressed in response to their questions during those sessions.

In reaction, the Navy removed Chaplain Modder from his unit and isolated him at the base chapel, cutting him off from his sailors and forbidding him from ministering to their spiritual needs. Chaplain Modder’s commander launched a three-pronged attack against him, requesting that Chaplain Modder be:  

1)    Removed from the promotion list.

2)    “Detached for cause,” the military equivalent of being fired. 

3)    Brought before an official Board of Inquiry, where he could be involuntarily forced out of the Navy.


Liberty Institute—the largest legal organization exclusively dedicated to defending religious liberty in America—is representing Chaplain Modder.  Liberty Institute has successfully defended the religious rights of service members threatened with similar religious discrimination.

In a letter to Chaplain Modder’s commander, Senior Counsel Mike Berry—Director of Military Affairs for Liberty Institute, a former U.S. Marine JAG Officer, and adjunct law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, warns:

“Chaplain Modder’s religious expression is therefore consistent with—indeed, it’s protected—by federal law and military regulations. Any adverse action, including Detachment for Cause, a Board of Inquiry, or removal from the promotion list, which results from a service member’s sincerely held religious beliefs violates those laws and regulations.”

Liberty Institute has requested that the Navy rescind all three threats against him, and return him to duty and good standing so he can continue his “best of the best” service to sailors and Marines who need him. Liberty Institute has requested a response no later than March 17.


Politically-correct forces want to drive religious liberty and influence from key areas of American society, including the U.S. Military.

As Chaplain Modder’s legal defense moves forward, Americans need to support Chaplain Modder and stand up for the religious freedom of chaplains, and other brave members of our armed forces.

Please sign the “STOP THE UNLAWFUL ACTION AGAINST CHAPLAIN WES MODDER, AN AMERICAN HERO” petition below, addressed to The Hon. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the United States Navy.

 The law is on the side of Chaplain Modder, all chaplains, and all members of the U.S. Military who want to exercise their faith.  But a public outcry is needed to wake up officials so that violations like this come to a stop.

Thank you for making a difference!







TO: The Hon. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the U.S. Navy

I am alarmed and outraged to learn of the violation of the religious freedom of Chaplain Wes Modder, one of the most highly regarded, highly decorated chaplains in the U.S. Navy. 

I stand with Liberty Institute, who is defending Chaplain Modder, and respectfully request that the Navy rescinds its unlawful disciplinary actions against Chaplain Modder.

These actions violate federal and military law and must cease immediately! Chaplain Modder must resume his invaluable work of giving spiritual guidance and emotional comfort to the sailors and Marines who need chaplains like him.

I will be following this serious matter closely. 



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Chaplain Wes Modder Called “Best of the Best” Navy SEAL Chaplain Now Targeted for Career-Ending Destruction

Praise for Chaplain Modder from Top Navy Commanders:

“ [has] charismatic leadership and sound judgment . . . the Navy has the best of the best in Chaplain Modder.”
Commander, Naval Special Warfare Center

“[A] national asset, mission critical, mission essential officer to any command.”                    
Then-Executive Officer, now-Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Boxer (LHD-4)

"None match his devotion to ministering to the needs of the people assigned to him or perseverance to the tasks assigned."
Director of Force Structure, Chief of Navy Chaplains

In addition:

Chaplain Modder’s former commander, Colonel Trollinger, Commanding Officer, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, revised Chaplain Modder’s already-glowing fitness report from “Must Promote” to “Early Promote,” the highest rating possible.

To learn more about Chaplain Modder’s stellar record and details of his case, click here.

Modder Petition Button


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