Nationals suspend chapel leader

Updated: September 21, 2005, 9:46 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- The chapel leader for the Washington Nationals was suspended Tuesday after a flap over a response to a question about Jews.

Jon Moeller will not be allowed access to the clubhouse while the team investigates. The Nationals have asked the Christian ministry Baseball Chapel, which appoints and oversees the volunteers, to provide a replacement.

According to an article published Sunday in The Washington Post, Nationals outfielder Ryan Church said he asked Moeller if Jews are "doomed" because they do not believe in Jesus. Church said Moeller nodded, the Post reported.

A team statement Tuesday quoted Church as saying he is "not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others." The statement also quoted team president Tony Tavares as saying the reported remarks "do not, in any manner, reflect the views or opinions of the Washington Nationals franchise."

In a release distributed by the team on Tuesday, Church said: "Those who know me on a personal level understand that I am not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others. I sincerely regret if the quote attributed to me in Sunday's Washington Post article offended anyone."

Vince Nauss, president of Baseball Chapel, said the group understood the Nationals' position, but added that Moeller had served the team well. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Nauss said the group planned to talk with the team before taking any action. Moeller could not be reached for comment.

"The Nationals did a good job about bringing hate into the locker room," said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads the city's oldest Orthodox synagogue, Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah.

Herzfeld said he met with Tavares for about 30 minutes Tuesday after denouncing the reported remarks at a news conference interrupted by security officials outside RFK Stadium.

He described the meeting with Tavares as productive, but said he would continue to follow the situation.

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, said it would be more appropriate if non-denominational prayers were offered so players of all backgrounds could participate.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.