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Fast Forward

Air Force Chaplain Allegedly Denied New Position After Converting to Judaism

A former Christian chaplain in the U.S. Air Force claims that he faced discrimination after converting to Orthodox Judaism, Air Force Times reported Tuesday.

Capt. Jeff Montanari, who was ordained by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, was assigned in 2010 to the March Air Reserve Base in California, where he was dedicated to serving the Jewish community, according to First Liberty Institute, the law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom that is representing him. He provided the base’s first Seder for Passover and helped Jewish men and women with their kosher dietary requests, in addition to making other religious accommodations.

Montanari was moved by his experience, and after discovering his own Jewish lineage, Montanari looked into converting to Orthodox Judaism. That was when he says his superiors began demeaning his character, refusing to make religious accommodations, isolating him from the rest of the chaplain staff and excluding him from meetings. One chaplain allegedly told Montanari that he could no longer work with him because of his change in religious beliefs, according to a letter sent by First Liberty.

Montanari was eventually driven out of the Air Force in 2015, his lawyers said.

After completing his Jewish conversion studies, Montanari decided to re-apply to the military chaplaincy to serve the needs of Jewish airmen. But Montanari said that the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel had rescinded its chaplaincy endorsement and ignored the law requiring them to notify him immediately. He also alleges that when he was interviewed again, he faced hostile questioning about his decision to convert.

The Civil Air Patrol still approved his application, but rescinded the decision several days later.

In a letter to Air Force officials, First Liberty demanded that Montanari’s application to become a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve and the Civil Air Patrol be approved, and that the Air Force issue an apology. It is demanding a response by May 21.

Contact Alyssa Fisher at fisher@forward.com or on Twitter, @alyssalfisher

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