Lawmakers Urge Probe Into NIH Chaplain Complaints

Several members of Congress are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate an allegedly anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic chaplain at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) clinical research hospital.

The Rev. O. Ray Fitzgerald, a Methodist minister and former head of the Spiritual Ministry Department, was demoted after a Catholic chaplain that he fired was judged to be the victim of “discriminatory and retaliatory animus” in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision.

But while the Catholic chaplain was reinstated, Fitzgerald still holds a chaplaincy position at the NIH’s Bethesda, Md., hospital. In light of a lawsuit and two EEOC complaints against Fitzgerald, 14 members of Congress want that changed.

“Intolerance has no place at the National Institutes of Health, especially within the Spiritual Ministry Department,” wrote Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who spearheaded the July 9 letter from Capitol Hill. Rep. Steven R. Rothman (R-N.J.) is also urging the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate. He told The Washington Post that it was “just outrageous that the NIH could be tolerant of this kind of bigotry in its own ranks.”

Fitzgerald has been accused by other chaplains of acts of intolerance, such as fixing patients’ schedules so they would not see chaplains of their own faith traditions. Former chaplains complained that he fired those who challenged him and that he referred to Rabbi Reeve Brenner as “the butthead Jew” and “the crass Jew,” reported the Religion News Service.