Looks like the Govt has backed down and allowed masses to continue, according to an update from the Thomas More Law Centre, although they are continuing with the lawsuit.
The Government capitulated just one day after the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Department of Defense’s actions which prohibited a Catholic Priest from celebrating Mass at a Naval base under threat of arrest and barred the Chapel to Catholic religious services due to the government shutdown.[Original Post]
TMLC attorney Erin Mersino filed the lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Washington DC on Monday on behalf of Father Ray Leonard and Fred Naylor, a parishioner. The lawsuit is the only legal challenge to the Government’s shutdown of religious services. Other Christian denominations were allowed to continue their religious services.
Late yesterday afternoon, in response to the lawsuit, three attorneys from the Department of Justice contacted TMLC attorney Erin Mersino by phone and indicated that Father Leonard could resume all of his religious duties beginning this morning, and that the Chapel would be open for all Catholic activities. These representations made by the Department of Justice attorneys were confirmed by orders to Father Leonard delivered through the Navy chain of command.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said, “The actions of the Federal Government were a blatant attack on religious liberty. I would never have imagined that our Government would ever bar Catholic Priest from saying Mass under threat of arrest and prevent Catholics from participating in their religious exercises. Allowing the Chapel doors to open and Father Leonard to fulfill his priestly responsibilities does not erase the Constitutional violations that occurred. We don’t want this to occur again the next time there is a government shutdown. Our lawsuit will continue.”
Yep, according to Thomas More Law Center, the U.S Govt has used the "shut down" as an excuse to stop Catholic Mass on a naval base in Georgia, though Protestant services haven't been affected. The priest has been threatened with arrest if he offers to celebrate for free. This will affect around 300 families. The priest has also been locked out of his chapel and office, and access to the sacraments.
In the wake of the government shutdown, despite provisions in the Pay Our Military Act, Catholics at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia are being denied religious services. The Catholic priest who serves this community has been prohibited from even volunteering to celebrate Holy Mass without pay, and was told that if he violated that order, he could be subject to arrest. Protestant services continue to take place. Only Catholic services have been shutdown.
This is an astonishing attack on religious freedom by the federal government, and the latest affront towards the military since the beginning of the shutdown.
As a result, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, today, filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Father Ray Leonard, a Catholic priest contracted to serve as base chaplain and Fred Naylor, one of Father Leonard’s parishioners and a retired veteran with over 22 years of service. Fr. Leonard is a civilian Catholic Pastor contracted by the Department of Defense (DoD) to serve as a military chaplain at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.
Fr. Leonard who served Tibetan populations in China for 10 years, informed the court in an affidavit; “In China, I was disallowed from performing public religious services due to the lack of religious freedom in China. I never imagined that when I returned home to the United States, that I would be forbidden from practicing my religious beliefs as I am called to do, and would be forbidden from helping and serving my faith community.”
On October 4, 2013, Fr. Leonard was ordered to stop performing all of his duties as the base’s Catholic Chaplain, even on a voluntary basis. He was also told that he could be arrested if he violated that order. The approximately 300 Catholic families, including Fred Naylor’s, served by Fr. Leonard at Kings Bay have been unable to attend Mass on base since the beginning of the shutdown.
Additionally, Fr. Leonard was locked out of his on-base office and the chapel. Fr. Leonard was also denied access to the Holy Eucharist and other articles of his Catholic faith. The order has caused the cancellation of daily and weekend mass, confession, marriage preparation classes and baptisms as well as prevented Fr. Leonard from providing the spiritual guidance he was called by his faith to provide.
The submarine base is remotely located. It consists of roughly 16,000 acres, with 4,000 acres comprised of protected wetlands. There are approximately 10,000 total people on the base.