WASHINGTON — A former Roman Catholic chaplain Tuesday renounced the Medal of Honor he won for heroism under fire in Vietnam, returning the nation's highest military honor to protest U.S. support of Nicaraguan rebels.
His action, which supporters called unprecedented, was part of a new campaign by religious leaders and members of Congress who oppose the Reagan Administration on aid to the guerrillas, known as contras.
Charles Liteky, who won the Medal of Honor for carrying more than 20 wounded soldiers to safety under enemy fire in Vietnam, left his medal and an explanation of his protest in an envelope at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"I find it ironic that conscience calls me to renounce the congressional Medal of Honor for the same basic reason I received it--trying to save lives," he said.
"This time the lives are not young Americans, at least not yet. The lives are those of Central Americans of all ages: men, women, vulnerable innocents of the conflict."
Backed by 28 in Congress
Twenty-eight members of Congress are also supporting the "campaign of conscience," which is aimed at obtaining signatures of 1 million Americans "who will work to make the undeclared war against Nicaragua a major election issue."
The 150 religious leaders behind the effort include bishops of the Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Episcopal and American Lutheran churches as well as officials and ministers of other denominations, supporters said.
Liteky was joined at a news conference at the Capitol by Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, who said that members of Congress voting for military aid to the contras "are voting for more violence" in Nicaragua.
The House has approved $100 million in new aid, including $70 million in military help, and the new campaign is partly aimed at persuading the Senate against going along.