In the Military







Navy Threatens to End Career of
Decorated Chaplain Who Served Navy Seals



Modder’s History
Modder's Latest assignment

Accusations against Modder
Navy action against Modder
What happens next
Praise for Chaplain Modder by military officers
Modder's Doctoral Thesis - excerpted
Relevant Military Code and Case Law 
Chaplain Modder’s Official Bio
Service Record - Marines

Service Record - Chaplain
Case Files
Naval Personnel Command Decision
Detachment for Cause
Response to Detachment for Cause
Denial of Request for
Accommodation 3/17/15

Press Release 3/24/15
Press Release 3/11/15

Press Release 3/9/15


Congressional Letters
Letter from 35 Members of Congress to Navy
Letter from Doug Collins to Navy


Support for Chaplain Modder
Support from National Leaders
Support from The Chaplain Alliance
for Religious Liberty


In The News
Fox & Friends - 06/10/15
Breitbart - 3/13/15

Breitbart -  3/18/15
Breitbart - 3/23/15
Fox News - 3/24/15
Fox News - 3/12/15

Fox News - 3/9/15

The Blaze
Christian Post
Christian Today
Charisma News
The Patriot Post
Christian News
The Daily Signal


Who is Chaplain Wes Modder? 

Chaplain Modder

Chaplain Wes Modder is a decorated military hero with an exemplary nineteen-year service record. His past Marine and Navy SEAL commanders call Chaplain Modder a “national asset,” with “charismatic leadership,” “sound judgment,” and the “appropriate confidence and diplomacy to speak to the entire chain of command,” making him the “best of the best” of Navy chaplains.  (View official letters of recommendations and fitness reports)

Modder In Harms WayDuring his service in the United States Marines, Modder served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. He earned a doctorate in Military Ministry and has served as a Navy chaplain for 15 years. As the Force Chaplain for Navy Special Warfare Command (WARCOM), Chaplain Modder was entrusted with the spiritual wellbeing of the Navy’s most elite warriors. Chaplain Modder supported Navy SEALs in DEVGRU during high-profile operations around the globe between June 2008-June 2010. (For more on Chaplain Modder’s record, see Bio, Training, Marine Service, Chaplain Service, and Awards.)


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


How has Chaplain Modder served at his latest assignment?

In 2014, at the personal request of a four-star admiral, Chaplain Modder was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC), where he faithfully provided support, counsel, and spiritual encouragement to his fellow sailors. In October, his commander said he was the “consummate professional leader,” providing “sage counseling” and being “sought out for his expertise” on “the most sensitive issues encountered.” (View full report from Modder’s commander.)


What are the accusations against Chaplain Modder?

At the NNPTC, as with all military commands, service members are encouraged to seek out the chaplain for individual counseling sessions, where they can ask personal questions, receive encouragement, and get spiritual guidance. Just weeks after Chaplain Modder received the highest possible rating and accolades from the NNPTC commander, a few sailors complained that they disagreed with the biblical views the Chaplain expressed during counseling sessions, even though the views were in line with the teachings of his faith. 


How has the Navy responded?

Despite laws, military regulations, and even court cases that protect chaplains when they discuss religious matters, the Navy has responded by removing Chaplain Modder from his unit and isolating him at the base chapel, cutting him off from his sailors and forbidding him to minister to their spiritual needs. The Navy has launched a three-pronged attack against Chaplain Modder, requesting that he be:

  1. Removed from the promotion list (where he is listed as “Early Promote,” the highest rating possible),
  2. “Detached for Cause,” which is the military equivalent of being terminated for cause, and removed from his unit.
  3. Brought before an official Board of Inquiry, where he could potentially be forced out of the Navy.


What happens next?

The Navy has demanded that Chaplain Modder respond to their “detachment for cause” by March 16. Chaplain Modder’s response is simple: He was simply doing what he is trained and directed to do; offering spiritual guidance in accordance with his faith. His right to do so is legally protected. In fact, according to military policy, if he does not adhere to the tenets of his faith, he could lose his ability to remain a chaplain. 

Federal law and military regulations forbid the Navy from taking adverse action against a chaplain based on his faith, making the Navy’s actions against Modder unlawful. Liberty Institute is dedicated to defending Chaplain Modder’s religious liberty and ensuring that he will be able to continue his mission of providing for the spiritual needs of all soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. 


What do other military officers say about Chaplain Modder?
Rear Admiral Edward G. Winters, III, Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command (WARCOM) (Bio)
Former Commanding Officer of both SEAL Team 4 and DEVGRU.

Excerpts from fitness report from February 15, 2009

  • [Chaplain Modder is a] consummate chaplain, exceptional leader, and extraordinary teacher and mentor.
  • Chaplain Modder distinguished himself by excelling as [a] supervisory chaplain for over 8000 personnel [who were] deployed to the combat zone.
  • Truly a trusted teammate, minister and mission enhancing contributor to NSW's role in the War on Terror, he has my strongest possible recommendation for immediate promotion.
  • Read full fitness report here


Captain Keith B Davids, Commanding Officer, Naval Special Warfare Center (Read article on Captain Davids)
Carried the “football” (e.g., the nuclear codes) for President George W. Bush.


Excerpts from letter from December 10, 2014

  • Talented and inspirational leader…dedicated to the spiritual fitness of the Navy and Marine Corps service members and their families.
  • Chaplain Modder [has] charismatic leadership and sound judgment.
  • Impressed by his character, integrity, moral center and approach to ministry in the Navy.
  • Senior Naval leaders would continue to benefit by his promotion and assignment to positions of greater responsibility and influence.
  • The Navy has the best of the best in Chaplain Wes Modder.
  • This talented Officer has my strongest and highest possible recommendation for Promotion to Commander, and is ready to take on the Navy's most challenging ministry positions!!!
  • Read full letter here


Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben, Chief of Chaplains, United States Navy (Bio)
The highest-ranking chaplain in the Navy.

Excerpts from letter from February 26, 2009

  • Chaplain Madder is one of the most enthusiastic, passionate, and dedicated chaplains in the Chaplain Corps.
  • None match his devotion to ministering to the needs of the people assigned to him.
  • He has been called to negotiate with vested parities well beyond his paygrade and has done so with both self-assurance and skill.
  • Without question, he should be given the opportunity to wear the rank and progress further in the leadership of the Chaplain Corps.
  • Read full letter here

Captain Michael S. Ruth, United States Navy (
Captain Ruth is the Commanding Officer of the of USS Boxer and has won “Pilot of the Year Awards” for operational and training flights in the areas of Combat Search and Rescue and Special Operations Support.


Excerpts from letter from January 25, 2015

  • Chaplain Modder is a national asset and a mission essential, mission critical officer to any command.
  • Chaplain Modder’s contributions to the Navy are unequaled.
  • [He demonstrates] appropriate confidence and diplomacy to speak to the entire chain of command.
  • Lieutenant Commander Modder's outstanding performance reflects the highest standards of leadership, professionalism and integrity.
  •  The Navy has the best of the best in Chaplain Wes Modder.
  • This talented officer has my strongest and highest recommendation possible to Promotion to Commander, and is ready to take on the Navy’s most challenging ministry positions!!!
  • Read full letter here

Captain John R. Fahs, Commanding Officer, Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (Bio)
Oversees training the Navy's nuclear power technicians who will serve on nuclear submarines, ships, and aircraft carriers.

Excerpts from fitness report from October 31, 2014

  • He provided seamless Chaplain services, sage counseling and pace-setting support to over 3,600 students and 500 staff.
  • Superior performance
  • Consummate professional leader, focused and dedicated to spiritual resiliency.
  • Sought out for his expertise…on the most sensitive issues encountered.
  • Chaplain Modder encompasses all the spiritual fitness expeditionary, and enduring capabilities of a future Commander in the Navy Chaplain Corps. The best of the best, press 100 for promotion to Commander! Select now!
  • Read full fitness report here



Colonel Matthew Trollinger, Commanding officer of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Previously served as the military assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration.

Excerpts from fitness report from March 10, 2014

  • Critical member of the 11th MEU Team.
  • Superior performance.
  • Provides sound expert advice as lead of the Force Preservation Council in the Command Element directly impacting my staff and the command’s mission readiness preparing for deployment.
  • Invested in Marines and families.
  • Strong pastoral example.
  • Recommended for Promotion to Commander.
  • Read full fitness report here


Captain Stewart G. Elliott, Commanding Officer, Naval Special Warfare Center
In charge of the famous BUDS, where Navy SEALs are trained.

Excerpts from letter

  • Chaplain Modder is a national asset and mission essential to my command.
  • Chaplain Modder's contributions to NSWC are unparalleled.
  • He has set the highest standards of combat zone ministry with his last deployment in theater.
  • The Navy has the best of the best in Chaplain Wes Modder.
  • He is a valuable asset to the Chaplain Corps, the Navy Special Warfare Community, and the United States Navy!
  • This talented officer has my strongest recommendation.
  • His dedication and loyalty to the Navy separates him from his peers.
  • Strongest recommendation possible to promotion to Lieutenant Commander, and is ready to take on the Navy's most challenging ministry positions!
  • Read full letter here


Excerpts from Chaplain Modder’s Doctoral Thesis, “Mission Beyond Commission: Empowered by the Holy Spirit; a Strategic approach for Effective Ministry to Navy SEALs.”



Relevant Military Code and Case Law 

Protection of Chaplains in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act

Section 533(b) of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Pub. L. No. 112-239, is entitled “Protection of Chaplain Decisions Relating to Conscience, Moral Principles, or Religious Beliefs.” It states “No member of the Armed Forces may: 

    1. Require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or
    2. Discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a requirement prohibited by paragraph (1).” [Emphasis added]

Protection of Service Member’s Beliefs in Department of Defense Instruction

Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 1300.17, Paragraph 4d, also states that “a Service member’s expression of sincerely held beliefs may not be used as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.” 

U.S. Navy and Marine Policy Favors Free Religious Expression

Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1730.8B (October 2, 2008) states: “Department of the Navy policy is to accommodate the doctrinal or traditional observances of the religious faith practiced by individual members  . . .” Again, the only restriction allowed is when religious activity to overtly impair necessary military functions.

Protection of Chaplains in Military Case Law

In 1997, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rejected attempts by the military to censor chaplains’ religious expression. See Rigdon v. Perry, 962 F.Supp. 150 (D.D.C. 1997). In the context of conducting worship services and sermons, the court stated that chaplains are acting “in a religious capacity, and therefore, it is wholly appropriate for them to advance their religious beliefs in that context.” Id. at 160-61. Likewise, when Chaplain Modder conducts counseling sessions with individual service members, he acts in a religious capacity, and it is wholly appropriate for him to advance his religious beliefs. 

Conclusion from Military Policy and Case Law

When it comes to religious expression, removal from the promotion list, a Detachment for Cause, and a Board of Inquiry are adverse actions prohibited by federal law and military regulation unless the government can show a compelling interest that is furthered by the least restrictive means.



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, holding the ceremonial oar given to him by Naval Special Warfare Command.


Chaplain Modder’s Official Bio


Modder’s Training includes:

  • Boot Camp at MCRD San Diego in 1984
  • Infantry Training School, Camp Pendleton, CA in 1984
  • Sea School at MCRD San Diego in 1985
  • Naval Chaplain School Training
  • Critical Incident Stress Management (C.I.S.M.)
  • Chaplain and Religious Program Specialist Expeditionary Skills Training (C.R.E.S.T.) at Camp LeJeune, NC

Service Record - Marines:

  • Serving with the Marine Detachment on the USS Carl Vinson CVN 70, 3rd BN 7th Marines (Deployed to Okinawa as a part of the Unit Deployment Program, with an additional deployment on the USS San Bernardino)
  • Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station in Flint, MI
  • Sergeant with Military Police Company 4th Marine Division Headquarters and Service Battalion, Fort Snelling, MN
  • Serving in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia 

Service Record - Chaplain: 

  • Stationed with 1 MAW, MAG 24 in Kailua Hawaii from October 2000-September 2003
  • Stationed at Naval Base Coronado at the Naval Amphibious Base, San Diego, CA Chapel from September 2003-June 2006
  • USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) Command Chaplain deployed to Iraq for OIF Operation Iraqi Freedom and OEF Operation Enduring Freedom CG CLASSRON
  • Chaplain for West Coast Guided Missile Cruisers at the Operational Ministry Center, San Diego, CA from June 2006 to May 2008.
  • Force Chaplain for the Naval Special Warfare Command, Navy Seals and BUDS at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, CA
  • Force Chaplain for the Naval Special Warfare Command, Navy Seals and BUDS at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado CA from July 2008 to July 2010. (During his tour as the Force Chaplain for the Navy SEALs Chaplain Modder deployed to Afghanistan with DEVGRU.)
    Wing Chaplain for Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific Fleet, Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado CA from August 2010 to November 2013. 
  • Command Chaplain for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit 1 MEF in Camp Pendleton, CA from November 2013 to April 2014.  
  • Command Chaplain Naval Nuclear Power Training Command from April 2014 to February 2015.  
  • Chaplain Modder currently serves at the Base Chapel Naval Weapons Station at Joint Base Charleston, SC.

Modder’s awards include:

  • Navy Commendation Medal 2nd award
  • Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal
  • Combat Action Ribbon
  • Navy Unit Commendation Medal
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation 3rd award
  • Battle Efficiency Ribbon 3rd award
  • Marine Corps Good Conduct
  • Fleet Marine Forces Service Ribbon
  • National Defense Service Medal 2nd award
  • South West Asia Service Medal 2nd award
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • Sea Service Ribbon 6th award
  • Navy Arctic Service Ribbon
  • Navy Overseas Service Ribbon
  • Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
  • Kuwait Liberation Medal
  • Rifle Expert
  • Pistol Expert



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