Navy Sailors claim discrimination due to religious believes

Sailors denied military benefits

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Three local sailors who all served aboard the USS Nimitz said they have been discriminated against because of a specific observance of their Christian faith.

The sailors just came back home from their military service aboard the USS Nimitz with heads held high.

'I joined to protect and serve my country," said Cedric Davis.
"To support and defend the constitution," said Graig Mitchell.  
"Protect and serve my country and our freedoms," said Tracy Davis.

The men feel this way despite a discharge that denies them the honor of their service and future military benefits.

"I was set to separate honorably as I was an honorable sailor, all of my service was honorable, but the commanding officer had different plans," said Cedric Davis.

Cedric Davis and his brother, Tracy, both served just shy of their four year commitment. Graig Mitchell served for a year and a half. They all received a general discharge weeks ago, all because they said, their commanding officer didn't respect their Seventh Day Adventist faith and the day of worship. They believe their commanding officer wanted them out of the military because of their commitment to their faith.

"He almost made it a personal situation. He told me, 'you’re doing what God said, but I want you to do what I say,'" said Mitchell.

"They made it clear that it was solely because of the Sabbath, because of my religious believes," said Tracy Davis.

All the sailors had exceptional military records, displaying to 23 ABC several of their good conduct awards and military accommodations.
But recently all that changed. They all said it was for the same reason because they choose to worship on Saturdays.

"I was in Captain's mess and the captain told me, 'Davis you have been a perfect sailor but your only mistake was keeping the Sabbath,'" said Tracy Davis.

Ironically, the very thing that caused these sailors to sign up to protect and serve our country was the very thing that may have caused their general discharge.

"I chose to serve our nation by protecting our freedoms. But apparently the freedom to worship is not allowed in the U.S. Navy. I believe this is a direct violation of the First Amendment," said Mitchell.

"It's sad. I feel my liberties were taken from me. The very thing I fought for the last four years of my life," said Cedric Davis.

They were even disciplined by having to wear restriction badges. Those badges are usually reserved for military personnel who break code.

"People who get caught with DUI's or people who get tested positive for drug abuse are put on restriction, but we were put on restriction for honoring our faith," said Tracy Davis.

23 ABC contacted the U.S. Navy for comment. A military spokesperson said he was not familiar with the case, but will look into it.

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