US Air Force Officer Denied Position as Chaplain Following Conversion to Orthodox Judaism


An Air Force officer and former evangelical Christian chaplain was discriminated against both when he converted to Orthodox Judaism and when his recent application to become a Jewish chaplain was rejected, according to the religious freedom organization now representing him – the First Liberty Institute.

They released the following statement:

First Liberty Institute has sent a letter to U.S. Air Force officials demanding that they immediately reinstate First Liberty client, Air Force Chaplain Jeff Montanari. First Liberty attorneys argue Air Force officials discriminated against Montanari when they rejected his application to be a Jewish chaplain following his conversion to Orthodox Judaism. He had previously served as a chaplain endorsed by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

“At the heart of religious liberty is the right to follow the faith of one’s choice,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel at First Liberty. “These Air Force officials have no legitimate or lawful reason to prevent Chaplain Montanari from continuing to serve his country as a chaplain, as he did with distinction for several years.”

While serving as a chaplain endorsed by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Montanari received many awards and accolades including nomination as Headquarters Airman of the Year. After serving as a Foursquare chaplain where he focused on ministry to the Jewish community, Chaplain Montanari requested a non-chaplaincy position as he explored Orthodox Judaism. Despite explaining that he was in the process of changing his religious affiliation, Montanari’s then-commanding officer ordered him back into the chaplaincy under the endorsement of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Chaplain Montanari faced severe hostility from his superiors during this time period, including excluding him from chaplain activities, effectively driving him out of the Air Force.

After completing two years of studies required to convert to Orthodox Judaism, Chaplain Montanari recently re-applied as an Orthodox Jewish chaplain to help serve the spiritual needs of Air Force personnel. Despite a pressing need for Jewish chaplains, the Air Force denied his application with no explanation.

First Liberty Institute First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

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  1. Could it be that they just don’t need one right now? They don’t have to give an explanation of why they don’t want to reinstate him. I hate it when the media (including The Yeshiva World News) tries to put messages into our minds with sentences like “ Despite a pressing need for Jewish chaplains… with no explanation.” They aren’t required to give one and how do we know there is a “pressing need.” This is one of the reasons why the non-Jews despise us, we tell them that they don’t like us and discriminate against us even when it might not be 100% the case. Get your facts straight by asking before reporting!!

  2. “After serving as a Foursquare (godpel) chaplain where he focused on ministry to the Jewish community,”

    Is this sentence accurate? He was ministering to the Jewish community while he was an evangelical christian?

  3. Although there is a need for Jewish Chaplains, he is not qualified to be a Jewish Chaplain. He served as a Christian Chaplain and converted. So what? How does this qualify him to now serve as a Jewish Chaplain? I would not have an observant Jew become a Jewish Chaplain just because said individual is observant.

    As for him ministering to Jewish personnel: That’s the job of any Chaplain regardless of faith. The Chaplain ministers to all who fall under his/her care.

  4. yitzchokm, respectfully: how do you know? All indications from external sources show that CPT Montanari is not qualified to be a Jewish Chaplain.

  5. “…focused on ministry to the Jewish community.” Many evangelical Xtians think that it is a special “mitzvah” to convert Jews to their faith. A number of the major evangelical organizations have specific ministries to try to convert us. I can think of several reasons for this, but since I’m not from their community I would hesitate to make any statements. The bottom line is that they target us, and some of them are trained to use methods developed specifically for Jews, especially any who are wavering. Any evangelical who converts a previously Orthodox Jew to their religion gets the theological equivalent of a gold star. It has happened in the past that Xtian missionaries have even “converted” to Judaism in order to be able to missionize more freely in israel. When I lived there back in the day there was a case of a family which had faked conversion, were detected and were expelled from the country.

    If the story is accurate as written, I would guess the motive for discriminating against him is revenge and a feeling of betrayal.

  6. the fact that this man converted and is now orthodox does not mean that he has the background in Jewish knowledge to be a chaplain.

    I applaud his sincerity to become a real Jew but I also know that being a rabbi requires much background knowledge, like yoreh da’ah, chosen mispat, etc….