ORLAND PARK - A southwest suburban church's new pastor will uniquely be honored Thursday night with the D.C.-based Freedom Alliance's "Defender of Freedom" Award for 2016.
Stone Church in Orland Park's Lead Pastor Wes Modder is being recognized for "his faithful service to our nation and unwavering commitment to protect religious freedom," Freedom Alliance says in a press release. Modder starting serving the local congregation in October.
A recently retired Navy chaplain, Pastor Modder ministered to some of America’s most elite warriors, including U.S. Navy SEALs. He also became an example to other military chaplains facing increased bureaucratic hostility in the nation's Armed Forces.
“We are pleased to recognize Chaplain Modder for his distinguished military career as well as his ministry to combat warriors and those who serve our country,” said Freedom Alliance President Tom
Kilgannon. “Chaplains are crucial to the emotional and spiritual well-being of our fighting force and Wes Modder was among the best in the military’s ranks. His courage in defeating politically motivated attacks on him and his faith ensure the ability of other chaplains to minister according to their beliefs.”
“I’m honored to receive this award,” said Modder, “and humbled to stand in the company of those to whom it has previously been given. I’m fortunate to have been able to serve my God and my country at the same time and minister to courageous young men and women who wear our nation’s uniform.”
On September 6, 2016, after 21 years of distinguished service, Modder retired from the Navy with an honorable discharge and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
But before he retired, Modder was forced to fight what the Freedom Alliance law firm calls "unjust and politically motivated" charges brought against him by several junior sailors, supervisors, fellow senior Navy chaplains, the Navy Chief of Chaplains notwithstanding and Commanding Officers.
All took issue with the Biblical teachings Modder shared in private counseling sessions the sailors requested.
The Navy threatened Modder with charges that could have ended his career. After a complete investigation and a long legal fight – in which Modder attracted support from numerous military and religious organizations, as well as elected officials – the Navy fully exonerated him. All charges were dropped and Chaplain Modder was allowed to continue his ministry. However, extenuating circumstances led him to retire and accept the position of Lead Pastor at Stone Church in Orland Park.
As Chaplain Modder challenged the charges against him, he was represented by First Liberty Institute, the largest nonprofit legal organization in the nation dedicated to defending religious liberty in America.
Mike Berry, Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs, said of Modder’s recognition, “Wes Modder represents all that is good in our nation’s military. His unwavering commitment to serve and care for his fellow service members, and to take such a bold stand for religious freedom, is an inspiration. First Liberty Institute is honored to stand behind Chaplain Modder.”
Prior to becoming a Navy Chaplain in 2000, Modder was a U.S. Marine and served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm and would deploy many more times in his career. For a two-year period beginning in 2008, Modder deployed multiple times in support of the Navy’s elite SEALs, tending to their spiritual counseling during difficult assignments.
His excellence did not go unnoticed. In 2014, he was hand-picked to perform his duties at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. That same year, his commander called Modder “The Best of the Best.”
The Defender of Freedom Award is named in memory of the late LtGen Edward J. Bronars, USMC, who served as the first chairman of Freedom Alliance and gave a lifetime of service to our country. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and his 32-year career with the Marine Corps included distinguished service in the Korean War and Vietnam War.