Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Reverend Caught Impersonating a Navy SEAL – Stories Inspired by Steven Seagal and GI Jane

"It's an ego-builder."

As a response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, a local paper in Newville, PA sought out local SEALs in order to run a piece outlining what life is and was like for those enlisted in that select force.

Evidently there is no database available to the press or public to check enlistment of SEAL soldiers during this time, though the information is available through a request utilizing the Freedom of Information Act.

A local reverend in Newville was interviewed and confirmed to a reporter that yes, he was a SEAL in Vietnam.

The only problem was…he wasn’t.

According to the article, Moats admitted Sunday (after being confronted with the truth by an outside source) that while he had been enlisted in the military from 1970 to 1974, he did not serve in Vietnam.  In fact, the closest he ever came to the turmoiled nation was the Mediterranean Sea aboard the USS Independence.

According to Moats, the whole thing started with a gift from his sons.

Moats had a plaque on his office wall that honors SEALs and other Navy special-operations units. Moats said his two sons, who were in the Army and served in Iraq together, made the plaque for him.

Moats’ name doesn’t appear on the plaque, but when church members got the impression from it that Moats had been a SEAL, Moats didn’t deny it. From there, the word spread, and Mats did nothing to correct the record.

“I have allowed people to assume that, and I have not corrected it. Probably at this church for the last five years do people assume that,” Moats said.

SEAL gold Trident

But the impersonation wasn’t entirely passive.  Moats went so far as to purchase the SEAL gold Trident and even wore it in public once as if it was his, though he maintains he never actually said it was his.

He said he wore the Trident once on his civilian suit at a public gathering. He said he told the group that the Trident wasn’t about him but was meant as a memorial to all SEALs, in the same way that Moats said he has worn his sons’ Army pins to honor their service.

Moats claims part of the inspiration for the impersonation was due to his dream of one day being a SEAL himself.  However, his comments on the subject seem to conflict with the idea that becoming a SEAL was ever one of Moats’ goals.

“I never was in a class, I never served as an actual SEAL. It was my dream. … I don’t even know if I would have met the qualifications. I never knew what the qualifications were,” Moats said.

Waaaaait a tick.  How in the world could someone have a dream, yet have no idea how to attain it?  If it was such an unattainable dream that the person had no intention of actually pursuing it, how could that person possibly justify impersonating a soldier for the admiration and attention it brought them using such a seemingly fickle dream as an excuse?

Fraud inspiring

Moats went so far as to share stories about his fictitious time as a SEAL – stories that were cultivated from surprising sources.

Shipley [the man who exposed Moats’ fraud] said Moats’ story about being re-assigned to kitchen duty and about being waterboarded were lifted from the Steven Seagal movie “Under Siege,” while his reference to being hit by SEAL instructors was vintage “GI Jane.”

Generally the reaction to this is story is a varying degree of shock that a reverend might be involved in such deception.  According to Don Shipley however, a former SEAL entrusted by the Navy to maintain the database containing the records of former SEALs which is not available to the general public, this sort of thing isn’t all that rare.

“We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It’s amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up,” Shipley said.

Personally, I don’t find it amazing at all.

Thanks to the always delightful Casey Doran for the link!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

the person had no intention of actually perusing it

Typo: “pursuing”, not “perusing”.


This article is Interesting it just goes to show this mans insecurity and having to lie to be accepted , though we have all done it in a small or big way as this. Anyways this website is garbage and I’m sad I found it . I respect Navy Seals for their GOD given abilities.

Mike Gillis

That’s funny. I would have thought their rigorous training and commitment had a lot more to do with their abilities than a magical man in the sky.

Putting in all CAPS doesn’t make it more true.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x