Obama’s Shutdown: ‘No Catholic Mass’

Base Chapel Kings Bay Altar

(See Update below.)

When Fr. Ray Leonard arrived to say Sunday Mass at the base chapel on Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base he got an unwelcome surprise: the doors were locked. Signs on the door sent a clear message to Catholic military personnel and their families: “Shutdown: No Catholic service till further notice.”

Fr. Leonard, who spent ten years in China and experienced that government’s hostility towards religion, sees troubling parallels. “This is our church. Catholics have an expectation and obligation to attend Mass and we were told, ‘no, you can’t go to church this week’…My parishioners were upset.  They were angry and dismayed.  They couldn’t believe that in America they’d be denied access to Mass by the government.”

According to a press release from the Congressional office of Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp, Fr. Leonard came as a volunteer, for one simple purpose: to serve his flock.

But the Emperor in the White House said no. It didn’t matter that Fr. Leonard’s presence wouldn’t cost the military one dime.

President Obama has his priorities—and religious freedom isn’t one of them.

Consider how the First Amendment is being sliced and diced during the shutdown. Catholics are not allowed to attend Sunday Mass, in their own Church with their own volunteer-priest, on a military base, because of the shutdown. (It’s only freedom of religion, after all.) But liberals are allowed to rally for immigration reform on the otherwise-closed National Mall, in spite of the shutdown. (It’s freedom of speech, after all!) When Park Service spokesman Michael Litterst explained that “groups will be granted access to the park for First Amendment activities,” what he really meant was that, for the Obama Administration, the ‘First Amendment’ means ‘free speech and assembly,’ but not ‘freedom of religion.’

Consider also President Obama’s near-silence on international issues of religious freedom. In his recent speech to the United Nations, President Obama criticized Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi for failing to govern in a “fully inclusive” manner and urged him to recognize that “true democracy” requires “respect for minority rights and the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society.”

He left out religious freedom.

It’s hard to believe that the omission is accidental. Egypt’s Coptic Christians can testify that the United States’ indifference to the plight of Egypt’s Christians has meant that religious persecution is “tolerated and even encouraged” by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood— with devastating results.

As I’ve written elsewhere, President Obama habitually gives short shrift to religious freedom, filing it away as an occasional subset of “minority rights” or “freedom of speech,” unless it proves useful to progressives’ social justice campaigns to fire up some old time ‘religion.’

But religion for its own sake? Bah. Who needs it? Certainly not Catholic soldiers and their families.

Only a few short weeks ago, the White House touted its support for religious liberty, in response to a petition seeking protection for non-believers serving in the military: “The Obama Administration strongly supports every American’s right to religious freedom.  This support extends equally both to the many members of our armed forces who hold religious beliefs and to those members of the military who do not hold such beliefs.”

Funny.  That statement can’t be accessed at the White House right now, due to the shutdown.

Maybe they forgot what it said.


Just before the shutdown ended, the government re-opened the Catholic chapel and reversed the ban on Catholic Masses at Kings Bay, in response to a federal lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense alleging an unconstitutional bar on the free exercise of religion. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Fr. Leonard and a Kings Bay parishioner, will continue, according to the Thomas More Center, because “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.” See the press release here.


3 thoughts on “Obama’s Shutdown: ‘No Catholic Mass’

  1. I thought I’d never see the day when the Oval office would let us know who could and couldn’t attend Mass/Church and yet here it is for all to see! I still believe he’s a traitor to our Nation and ought to be in jail along with his wife!!!!!!!! Why is he still in office tearing down the office and our Nation right in front of our eyes. He walks around all smug like he’s pulling something over on us AND HE IS!!! God bless us one and all and Dear Lord please change Obama’s heart and mind so much that even he can recognize himself any more…Thy Will be done…xo Lee xo P.S. Thanks Mary for putting out what you have. God bless you and keep you safe.

  2. Religious freedom only matters here because otherwise, conservative Catholics would actually have been obligated to support universal health care as proposed and passed by Democrats. For people like Mary and her ilk, they MUST HAVE the religious freedom angle, or otherwise, God forbid, they might actually have to follow Catholic teaching on an issue the liberals got passed. If religious freedom meant adjusting the conservative Catholic lifestyle to accommodate someone else’s religious calendar, somehow, I just don’t think we would see this incredible outrage. I live in an area with a large Jewish population. One of the reasons my children are in public school (as opposed to Catholic school) is because they have learned so much from their Jewish friends about their religious traditions and beliefs. Our large Muslim population has also brought more rich diversity to our schools and neighborhoods. My local schools accommodate the Jewish religious calendar, and it has become a part of our life. The dietary restrictions are known and my kids honor and respect them in their friends, just like they do with their own lenten sacrifice. My son’s middle school choir concert brought tears to my eyes. My son (an Asian) stood behind a Jewish male friend wearing a kippah, and he stood next to a girl wearing a full hijab. They all stood together singing in our public melting pot of a school. All my son’s Catholic friends who attended their parish schools and are now attending their exclusive 95% white, no kids with disabilities, high price tag Catholic high school are missing out. No bar/bat mitzvahs, no understanding of Passover, no understanding of female friends who dress differently, no profoundly disabled peers who make noises in classes, no wheelchairs in the hallways, etc. My kids have learned incredible respect for other faiths, and expect the same in return. Religious freedom goes far beyond Catholic Mass at a military base. Religious freedom begins with education. So many Catholic kids just don’t have it. It’s really too bad. I see so much good in Catholic schools, but also so much more they must do. And since Catholic high schools in many large cities have become high priced academic academies and lost the mission of serving all, we will never have Catholic school like the days when I was raised. I see religious freedom around me every day. And it makes me so proud to be an American.

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