Fitzgerald was demoted from the chief chaplain's post two weeks ago after the EEOC, which cited the "animus," and the Merit Systems Protection Board ordered the rehiring of and back pay for the priest, the Rev. Henry Heffernan.
NIH officials "endorsed intolerance, and they reinforced intolerance with intolerance," said Rabbi Reeve Brenner, who testified last year in support of the priest and was fired as a hospital chaplain in February. He has filed a complaint with the Merit Board, an agency that hears federal personnel disputes, saying that he was removed by NIH as retribution for his testimony.
Another ousted chaplain, Greek Orthodox lay minister Edar Rogler, is suing the Department of Health and Human Services, NIH's parent agency, saying that she also was removed for testifying in support of Heffernan. In her lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Maryland, and in her testimony in Heffernan's case, she says NIH officials hatched a plan, "Operation Clean Sweep," to purge staff members who cooperated in the priest's complaint.
Rogler alleges that Fitzgerald made frequent anti-Semitic comments about Brenner. In her lawsuit, she says that Fitzgerald referred to Brenner as "the butthead Jew" and "the crass Jew."
"He would not refer to the rabbi ever by his name," Rogler said in an interview. "It was always 'that Jew, that Jew.' " She was fired from her part-time chaplain's job in 2005 after she said she informed NIH officials that she planned to testify before the EEOC on behalf of Heffernan. The EEOC called her testimony more credible than Fitzgerald's.