Fundamentalist Navy chaplains sue for job bias

April 09, 2000
Landlocked in Omaha, Greg DeMarco sweetened his youth by dreaming of the sea and the heavens. At the time, he saw only one way to navigate both: by signing up as a Navy chaplain. After all, Southern Baptist preachers and Navy sailors seemed to him cut from the same cloth--pro-Vietnam War, pro-family, faithful to country and God.
     But 15 years in his chosen profession have made him wiser. By career's end, he'd realized the preacher side of him suffocates in the sailors' company.
     So last month, DeMarco joined 10 fellow chaplains in a class action
lawsuit that claims the Navy discriminates against evangelical Christian
preachers like him.
     The suit alleges that Navy brass effectively run a "religious patronage
system," favoring the denominations they belong to, what the plaintiffs call High Church: Catholics and mainline Protestants.