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“This decision shows the direction the Navy is heading,” said Mr. Hunter.

“Naming a ship after Cesar Chavez goes right along with other recent decisions by the Navy that appear to be more about making a political statement than upholding the Navys history and tradition.”

Last week, Mr. Hunter introduced legislation directing the Navy to name the next available ship after Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Sgt. Peralta was killed when he fell on a grenade during combat in Fallujah, Iraq, and was awarded the Navy Cross.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Mabus did not return a reporter’s phone messages.

The Chavez was the second Lewis-and-Clark class cargo ship that Mr. Mabus named after a civil rights leader.

In 2009, Mr. Mabus announced a ship would be named after Medgar Evers, the Mississippi civil rights activist who was shot and killed in the drive way of his home in 1963. Mr. Evers had no professional connection to the Navy. He served two years of combat in Europe in World War II and was honorably discharged an Army sergeant.

Before the Chavez and Evers namings, most of the other 12 Lewis-and-Clark ships were named after Navy pioneers. They include retired admiral and astronaut Alan Shepard and Arctic explorer Adm. Robert E. Peary. One ship is named the USS Carl Brashear, after the Navy’s first black master diver.

There are four exceptions: the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson; their guide, Sacajawea; aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart; Dr. Charles Drew, who developed a system of life-saving blood banks during World War II.

There have been other events this year that some sailors view as politically correct.

In January, the Navy fired the popular commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier for producing a raunchy shipboard video. Some sailors came to Capt. Owen Honors’ defense, saying he was the victim of a “PC Navy” for an internally produced morale builder.

The Navy chaplain’s office went overboard by announcing it would allow same-sex marriages on naval facilities, a policy at odds with the Obama administration.

The White House had told Congress such unions would not be allowed because federal law defines marriage as one man and one women. Under pressure from lawmakers, the Navy retracted the policy.

The Navy’s perceived “PC” tilt comes as troops are experiencing the biggest social change since blacks were integrated into the ranks in 1948.

The four branches have launched an extensive indoctrination campaign, both in the states and in war zones, to prepare troops for open gays by the end of the year. Homosexuals now serve under a policy called “don’t ask, don’t tell” that requires them to keep their sexuality private.

An outside commission set up by Democrats when they ran the House has recommended the Pentagon end its ban on women serving in direct ground combat units such as the infantry, tank corps and Special Operations Forces.

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