Navy Chaplain Fr. Ray Leonard had begun service to the U.S. military after 10 years of ministering in Tibet, under conditions of religious suppression. He was surprised to find religious freedom deteriorating in the U.S. upon his return.
During the government shutdown this past fall, chaplains were banned from celebrating Mass at the Georgia Naval base. Rev. Leonard was threatened with arrest for administering any of the sacraments during the shut down. He then filed suit against the Department of Defense for forbidding him to perform the duties of a Catholic priest. A day later, he received a letter reinstating his right to perform his duties. One week later, he was informed that his DOD contract was no longer valid, and offered a new contract which required him to agree not to receive payment for services already rendered. He was the only chaplain to undergo such a contractual change. Fr. Leonard had been scraping together money for his food and rent during the months of November and December, in lieu of his salary. (We expect the IRS to be going after him for that, later on, if he can’t account for every penny and every free meal. )
Thomas More Law Center has amended the original lawsuit, adding a complaint that Fr. Leonard has suffered unlawful retaliatory damage from the government in response to the first lawsuit. A court has ordered the government to respond to the amended complaint by March 3, 2014.