In re Chaplaincy, Case No. 1:07-mc-269 (GK)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtGladys Kessler, United States District Judge
Citation170 F.Supp.3d 21
Parties In re: Navy Chaplaincy
Decision Date16 March 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 1:07-mc-269 (GK)

170 F.Supp.3d 21

In re: Navy Chaplaincy

Case No. 1:07-mc-269 (GK)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed March 16, 2016


170 F.Supp.3d 26

Arthur A. Schulcz, Sr., Chaplains' Counsel, Leesburg, VA, for Plaintiffs.

Christopher R. Hall, Eric B. Beckenhauer, Kieran Gavin Gostin, Matthew J.B. Lawrence, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge

Table of Contents

I. Background ...27

A. The Navy Chaplain Corps ...27

B. The Navy's Personnel System ...28

C. Plaintiffs' Claims ...28

D. Procedural Background ...29

II. Legal Standard ...29

A. Standard of Review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (1)...29

B. Standing ...30

C. Mootness ...30

III. Analysis ...31

A. “As Applied” Challenges to Alleged Policies ...31

1. Faith Group Accession Goals ...31

2. Staffing of CARE Boards ...33

3. CARE Board Procedures ...34

4. Former Alleged Recruiting Policy ...34

5. Alleged use of Faith Group Categories ...35

6. Alleged Dual Systems of Discipline ...35

7. SECNAVINST 173 0. 7C ...36

8. Alleged Policy of a General Protestant Service ...37

9. Alleged Policy of Reserving Key Billets ...38

10. Alleged Practices Concerning Recalls ...39

B. “As Applied” Challenges to Conditions of Chaplain Corps ...39

C. Challenges to Ad Hoc Actions ...40

170 F.Supp.3d 27
1. Alleged Failure to Consider Prior Reports ...40

2. Alleged Interference with Ministries ...42

3. Alleged Interference with Prayer ...43

D. Portions of Claims of Specific Plaintiffs ...44

1. Statute of Limitations ...44

2. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies ...45

IV. Conclusion ...46

Plaintiffs are current and former Non-liturgical Protestant chaplains in the United States Navy, their endorsing agencies, and a fellowship of non-denominational Christian evangelical churches. They bring this consolidated action against the Department of the Navy and several of its officials. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants discriminated against Non-liturgical Protestant chaplains on the basis of their religion, maintained a culture of denominational favoritism in the Navy, and infringed on their free exercise and free speech rights.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on Jurisdictional Grounds. Upon consideration of Defendants' Motion [Dkt. No. 217], Plaintiffs' Opposition [Dkt. No. 229], Defendants' Reply [Dkt. No. 235], and the entire record herein, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Only a brief recitation of the facts is necessary at this time since the Court has familiarity with the extensive record in the case, which includes more than twenty written decisions by-Judge Ricardo Urbina when the case was assigned to him, by this Court, and by the Court of Appeals.

A. The Navy Chaplain Corps

The Navy employs a corps of chaplains (“Chaplain Corps” or “CHC”) whose mission is to provide for the free exercise of religion by members of the Navy, their dependents, and other authorized persons. In re England, 375 F.3d 1169, 1171 (D.C.Cir.2004) (citation omitted). In accordance with this mission, Navy chaplains provide religious education, counseling, and support to sailors and Marines and advise commanders on religious, moral, and ethical issues. Id.

There are over 10 0 faith groups recognized by the Department of Defense, which the Navy has grouped into four “faith group categories” (“FGCs”) consisting of: Roman Catholic, Liturgical Protestant, Non-liturgical Protestant, and Special Worship. In re Navy Chaplaincy, 697 F.3d 1171, 1173 (D.C.Cir.2012). The Liturgical Protestant category consists of Protestant denominations that trace their origins to the Protestant Reformation, practice infant baptism, and follow a prescribed liturgy; it includes Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian faiths. In re England, 375 F.3d at 1172 ; Consolidated Complaint (“Consol. Compl.”) ¶ 6(b) [Dkt. No. 134]. The Non-liturgical Protestant category is composed of Protestant denominations that baptize at the “age of reason” and do not follow a formal liturgy; it includes Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Bible Church, and Charismatic faiths. In re England, 375 F.3d at 1172 ; Consol. Compl. ¶ 6(c). The Special Worship group includes denominations not covered by the Protestant and Roman Catholic categories; it includes Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jehovah's Witness, Christian Science, Mormon, and Unitarian faiths. Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 454 F.3d 290, 295 n. 3 (D.C.Cir.2006) ; Consol. Compl. ¶ 6 n.5.

170 F.Supp.3d 28

B. The Navy's Personnel System

Chaplains enter the Navy through a civilian clergy program or a theological student program. Consol. Compl. ¶ 44(c). The term “accession” refers to the process of bringing a qualified individual into the Chaplain Corps as a commissioned officer. Thereafter, they are subject to the same personnel system as other naval officers and must be selected for promotion in rank when the needs of the service require. In re England, 375 F.3d at 1172 (citing 10 U.S.C. § 611(a) ). If an officer is considered but not selected for a promotion, he or she is said to have “failed of selection” (“FOS”). Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, 454 F.3d at 293. After failing of selection on two or more occasions, an officer is subject to involuntary separation, known as “selective early retirement.” See 10 U.S.C. § 632(a) –(b). However, the Navy may elect to continue an officer on active duty despite two or more failures of selection as its needs require. See 10 U.S.C. § 632(c) (2).

Each of these decisions regarding a naval officer's career—promotion, selective early retirement, and continuation on active duty—is made by a “selection board” composed of superior officers who act pursuant to statute and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense. See 10 U.S.C. §§ 611, 612.

C. Plaintiffs' Claims

Plaintiffs' Consolidated Complaint contains 18 Counts, many of which contain various claims challenging current and historical aspects of the CHC's personnel system. The following is a small sampling of their claims.

First, they contend that the faith group categories recognized by the Navy are discriminatory and arbitrary. Consol. Compl. ¶¶ 33-38. In particular, they claim that the categories reflect neither religious demographics nor legitimate similarities or differences among the worship traditions represented.

Second, they allege that in the past (but not since at least 2002), the CHC used religious quotas to apportion chaplain opportunities among various faith groups. Consol. Compl. ¶¶ 33-35. In particular, they allege that policies existed requiring one or two Roman Catholic chaplains on selection boards, and that such policies were designed to “stack” selection board proceedings against Non-liturgical candidates and in favor of Roman Catholic and Liturgical Protestant chaplains despite their allegedly declining numbers in the broader population. Consol. Compl. ¶¶ 57(e)-(g). Defendants deny that such policies ever existed.

Third, Plaintiffs challenge a number of facially neutral personnel practices—both current and historical—that they believe have allowed religious bias to infect selection board outcomes. Plaintiffs claim that the practices, taken together, “enable [ ] each board's chaplains to ensure that a particular candidate will not be promoted, thus increasing the odds for their preferred (and discriminatory) results.” In re Navy Chaplaincy, 738 F.3d 425, 428 (D.C.Cir.2013).

Plaintiffs also challenge a practice, which they concede has not existed since 2002, in which “each selection candidate's three-digit ‘faith group identifier’ code was prominently displayed throughout the selection board process.” Consol. Compl. ¶ 86. Plaintiffs contend this practice had no purpose other than “to identify a candidate's faith group to the board” for purposes of permitting the board members “to exercise their individual or faith group prejudice for or against other chaplains or faith groups, particularly against Non-liturgical chaplains.” Id.¶ 87.

Fourth and finally, Plaintiffs seek relief relating to a variety of specific instances in

170 F.Supp.3d 29

which they allegedly suffered discrimination and free exercise harm while serving in the Chaplain Corps. See e.g., Addendum 1 to Consol. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 37, 41. These include occasions in which Plaintiffs claim to have been: (1) retaliated against, criticized, and removed from their posts based on the content of their religious teachings; (2) treated differently from Liturgical chaplains with respect to disciplinary-issues and employment benefits; (3) required to officiate at Liturgical services; and/or (4) subjected to general policies that, while not facially discriminatory, disfavored certain aspects of their worship...

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5 practice notes
  • Harkness v. Sec'y of the Navy, No. 16-5396
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 31, 2017
    ...to the D.C. Circuit, is still pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. See In re Navy Chaplaincy , 170 F.Supp.3d 21 (D.D.C. 2016).In 2007, Harkness was denied promotion to the rank of Captain by a reserve officer promotion board. Harkness petitioned the Secr......
  • In re Navy Chaplaincy, Misc. Case No. 07-269 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2018
    ...one additional plaintiff, Thomas Rush, fell outside the statute-of-limitations period for similar reasons. See In re Navy Chaplaincy, 170 F.Supp.3d 21, 44 (D.D.C. 2016).In early 2015, the Navy filed another motion to dismiss, this time on standing and other jurisdictional grounds. See Defs.......
  • Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund v. Forest Hill Health Care Ctr., Inc., Case No. 14-cv-01531 (CRC)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • March 16, 2016
    ...Article 14 of the Last and Final Offer indicates in its entirety, “National Industry Pension Fund [:] Contribution rates as agreed by 170 F.Supp.3d 21the Parties.” Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, at 3.The Plan does not maintain that Forest Hill failed to provide its renewal agreement—in the form......
  • Arnold v. Sec'y of Navy, Civil No. 19-2755 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 21, 2020
    ...as that issue was actually litigated and resolved in a prior opinion in the Navy Chaplaincy litigation. See In re Navy Chaplaincy, 170 F. Supp. 3d 21, 39-40 (D.D.C. 2016) (after full briefing, dismissing claims that the Navy has a "culture of bias and hostility toward Non-liturgical ch......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Harkness v. Sec'y of the Navy, No. 16-5396
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • May 31, 2017
    ...to the D.C. Circuit, is still pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. See In re Navy Chaplaincy , 170 F.Supp.3d 21 (D.D.C. 2016).In 2007, Harkness was denied promotion to the rank of Captain by a reserve officer promotion board. Harkness petitioned the Secr......
  • In re Navy Chaplaincy, Misc. Case No. 07-269 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2018
    ...one additional plaintiff, Thomas Rush, fell outside the statute-of-limitations period for similar reasons. See In re Navy Chaplaincy, 170 F.Supp.3d 21, 44 (D.D.C. 2016).In early 2015, the Navy filed another motion to dismiss, this time on standing and other jurisdictional grounds. See Defs.......
  • Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Nat'l Indus. Pension Fund v. Forest Hill Health Care Ctr., Inc., Case No. 14-cv-01531 (CRC)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • March 16, 2016
    ...Article 14 of the Last and Final Offer indicates in its entirety, “National Industry Pension Fund [:] Contribution rates as agreed by 170 F.Supp.3d 21the Parties.” Pls.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, at 3.The Plan does not maintain that Forest Hill failed to provide its renewal agreement—in the form......
  • Arnold v. Sec'y of Navy, Civil No. 19-2755 (JDB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 21, 2020
    ...as that issue was actually litigated and resolved in a prior opinion in the Navy Chaplaincy litigation. See In re Navy Chaplaincy, 170 F. Supp. 3d 21, 39-40 (D.D.C. 2016) (after full briefing, dismissing claims that the Navy has a "culture of bias and hostility toward Non-liturgical ch......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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