Jewish lay leaders serving the Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky were reportedly dismissed without cause, leading to an investigation of what the dismissed leaders allege is religious discrimination, Army Times reported over the weekend.
“There was no explanation why I was fired,” said Jeanette Mize, who, along with her husband and son, had organized Shabbat and high holiday services for Jewish soldiers at Fort Campbell since 1999. Those services have now been effectively discontinued, Army Times reported.
“I really feel like there is religious persecution for the Jewish soldiers and their families at Fort Campbell,” Mize told the Tennessean separately.
A spokesperson for the base told the paper: “We are investigating allegations surrounding changes in religious support to the Fort Campbell Jewish community.”
Mize noted to Army Times that while there are churches in the Fort Campbell area, “the nearest synagogue is located in Nashville, more than 50 miles away.”
After her termination as a lay leader, a position for which she was never paid, Mize contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which in turn filed a complaint with the base, Army Times reported. That complaint is now being pursued as an official investigation.
In addition to the lay leaders’ sudden termination, Mize noted that Jews on the base were encouraged to celebrate Passover on a date other than March 30, when the eight-day holiday began this year, allegedly because it conflicted with Good Friday.
Mize also described one chaplain sponsor who, she said, sought to bully her out of her position.
“I made appeals to replace him,” Mize told Army Times. “Nothing was done about this. [He] enjoyed his position and exerted his authority.”
Another chaplain told Mize that he couldn’t attend Jewish services after receiving her invitations because “it would compromise his religion to attend,” she told Army Times.
“When you say that some of the most senior military chaplains can’t even observe Jewish faith practices because it would be offensive to their religious views, it doesn’t get much worse than that, except when you tell them that if they want the base chaplains to support Passover, they have to choose a day that isn’t Passover,” Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told the Army Times.