Religious bigotry at NIH

Who hired a raging anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic bigot as the head chaplain at the NIH Clinical Center? Who fired the witnesses who testified against him at the Merit Systems Protection Board hearing that found he had discriminated against rabbis and priests working for him? Why do any of these people still have jobs?


Being an anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic bigot won’t get you fired from the chaplaincy at the NIH research hospitals. But complaining that your supervisor is an anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic bigot will.

The reader who alerted me to this story asks an excellent question: Who selected O. Ray Fitzgerald, and who is protecting him now? Not only is he a raging bigot (“all Catholic priests are pedophiles”), but he apparently lied to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is a no-no (otherwise known as a felony). Frustratingly, the article says that the problems in the unit have been going on “for years” and identifies one employee as having left (to become a Protestant military chaplain) over concerns about religious bias in 2002, but doesn’t mention when or how Fitzgerald was hired, or who his protectors are.

Some of the commenters on the WaPo website jump to the conclusion that Fitzgerald must be an evangelical hired at he behest of the White House faith-based-programs office. Maybe. But why would an evangelical push for a generic chaplaincy approach, under which any patient could be tended by any chaplain? That seems strange. Perhaps that was just a cover for not having to hire any non-evangelical-Protestant chaplains?

Fitzgerald’s immediate supervisor (and acting replacement now that he has been demoted) is Walter Jones, M.S., whose title is “deputy director for management and diversity” of the NIH Clinical Center. (The WaPo article gets the job title weirdly wrong “deputy director for diversity of NIH.”) That raises the further question of who hired Walter Jones and who is protecting him. He seems to have been the person who fired at least some of the complaining witnesses before MSPB, on apparently pretextual grounds. That, too, is probably a crime, under the civil rights laws.

But it’s hard to believe that the “Deputy Director for Management and Diversity,” who supervises social work, patient recruitment, PR, and the chaplaincy (see org chart at the jump) was in a position to get rid of the physician whose contract apparently wasn’t renewed because he, too, complained. (The physician is also a rabbi.)

Maureen Gormley, the Chief Operating Officer of the NIH Clinical Center, is identified as having told a Greek Orthodox chaplain that she would be fired for testifying, and as having written at least one of the dismissal letters. She could well have been able to arrange for the non-renewal of a physician’s contract. That witness mentioned a plan called “Operation Clean Sweep” to get rid of all the complainants.

(Someone from the HHS Inspector General’s office should do a keyword search for that phrase on the NIH’s email servers. Who knows? You might get lucky. Fortunately, the HHS IG is no longer William Rehnquist’s corrupt, partisan, incompetent, pistol-packin’ daughter. Her replacement’s name is Daniel Levinson.)

So all of that leads to the question: Who is Margaret Gormley, who hired her, and why does she still have a job?

Over to you, Mr. Waxman. Sigh. So many hearings, so little time.

Update A reader has done considerable digging, and all the key players appear to be longtime NIH civil servants. So it appears that this is a case of bureaucratic nastiness and butt-covering rather than any deep Faith-Based plot. That doesn’t change the fact that heads should roll.

Clinical Center

National Institutes of Health

Director: John I. Gallin, MD

Chief Operating Officer: Maureen E. Gormley, MPH, RN

There are ten areas that report to the Director. These include:

Assistant Director for Ethics and Technology Development: Elaine J. Ayres, MS, RD

Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education: Frederick P. Ognibene, MD

Deputy Director for Management & Diversity: Walter Jones, MS

Chief Operating Officer: Maureen E. Gormley, MPH, RN

Chief, Nursing and Patient Care Services: Clare Hastings, PhD, RN, FAAN

Chief Financial Officer: Lisa A. Lacasse, MBA

Clinical Bioethics Department: Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD

Chief Information Officer: Jon W. McKeeby, DSc

Diagnostic Radiology Department: Elizabeth Jones, MD (acting), Bradford J. Wood, MD (acting)

Deputy Director for Clinical Care: David K. Henderson, MD

Reporting to the Deputy Director for Management & Diversity are the following:

Social Work Department: Adrienne Farrar, PhD

Office of Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison: Dinora Domingues, BS, RN (acting)

Spiritual Ministry Department: Walter Jones, MS (acting)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: