HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) – A Navy officer at Groton submarine base filed a writ of habeas corpus, saying the Navy refused to honorably discharge him as a conscientious objector because he was unable to recite the 10 Commandments and did not believe some sins are worse than others. Ensign Michael Izbicki claims Navy investigators questioned him using “a Roman Catholic catechism,” though he is a Quaker.
“The Navy’s Investigating Officer asserted that Quakers do not believe in Jesus Christ, and even likened the Quakers to a Jim Jones-like cult,” the ACLU said in a statement. Izbicki is represented in Federal Court by an ACLU attorney.
“It relied instead on Pastor Rick Warren’s religious belief that Jesus was not a pacifist, and that the Bible supports participation in war.”
Izbicki, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, says his Christian beliefs began conflicting with his naval service after he graduated and began submarine training. Izbicki says he could not launch a nuclear missile and has growing doubts about whether he could participate in war or take another person’s life.
In the 82-page complaint, replete with religious argument, Izbicki’s attorneys say the Navy’s investigation was biased and perverted by the investigators’ beliefs. For instance: “(a) the Second IO [investigating officer] had a rigid and narrow vision of what counts as Christianity; (b) the Second IO judged petitioner’s beliefs against the standard of his own view of Christianity; (c) the Second IO showed a particularly derisive view towards Quakerism, revealing his own bias, and rejecting petitioner’s participation in the Westerly Meeting as a genuine Christian practice.”
After Izbicki told his examiners “that people of other faith traditions might have faith in God without knowing Jesus … a view held by other Christians and respected by influential Christian theologians … the Second IO ‘responds by asking him about cults, implying that petitioner’s views are abnormal and dangerous,'” the complaint states, citing the record of the Navy’s investigation.
Izbicki said his beliefs stem from Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. He wrote in his application for conscientious objector status: “I believe that Jesus Christ calls all men to love each other, under all circumstances. I believe his teaching forbids the use of violence. I take the Sermon on the Mount literally.”
Two Navy chaplains, three civilian clergy and two academic theologians affirmed the depth and sincerity of Izbicki’s religious opposition to participation in any form of war. But the Navy twice denied his application for conscientious objector status, stating that he was unable recite the 10 Commandments and did not believe some sins were worse than others. Those issues are discussed at length in the complaint.
“Displaying a lack of knowledge about Quaker worship and belief, the Navy’s Investigating Officer asserted that Quakers do not believe in Jesus Christ, and even likened the Quakers to a Jim Jones-like cult,” the ACLU said in its statement. “It relied instead on Pastor Rick Warren’s religious belief that Jesus was not a pacifist, and that the Bible supports participation in war.”
The application of these religious standards to Izbicki’s own religious beliefs violates the Constitution, applicable law, and military regulation, the ACLU said.
Izbicki is represented by Deborah Karpatkin and Vera Scanlon with Beldock Levine & Hoffman and Sandra Staub and David McGuire with the ACLU.