Jewish Journal


May 10, 2011

Pastor fakes days as a Navy SEAL



After years of letting his congregation believe he’d once been a Navy SEAL, a Pennsylvania pastor’s tale has come undone.

Last week, The Patriot-News newspaper, based in Harrisburg, reached out to former SEALs living in midstate Pennsylvania, hoping for some local perspective on the U.S. commando operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Rev. Jim Moats, of Newville, obliged, and was featured in a story that ran in Saturday’s edition. But it turns out Moats was never a SEAL, and the guilt-ridden pastor went to the paper’s office on Sunday to fess up.

“I never was in a class, I never served as an actual SEAL. It was my dream,” Moats, 59, who did serve in the Navy from 1970 to 1974, told the paper. “I don’t even know if I would have met the qualifications. I never knew what the qualifications were.”

That’s from TPM Muckraker, and to get the full effect, you need to read the lede for the original story from the The Patriot News, which is full of detail about Moats’ bravado as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War—“a brash athletic 19-year-old from a military family.”

Children learn that once you start telling a lie, it’s difficult to ever get back on the path of telling truth. That must be particularly troubling for someone who proclaimed to be a minister of Truth. The question, though, is: Why?

Of all the things to lie about, this seems like an odder one. I mean, not as odd as if I claimed I had a six-month contract with the Harlem Globetrotters. But still quite odd.

Moats plans to explain what in the world he was thinking at the church’s Wednesday night service. I’m surprised he can wait that long, and I’d be surprised if he lasts as the church’s pastor past that.

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