Telling a chaplain, he can’t practice faith is like telling a medic he can’t practice medicine! But unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Army is doing in the case of Fort Bragg Chaplain Scott Squires. And now, a 25-year career that took Squires on multiple tours of Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East may be in jeopardy for it.
For Scott, a dad of three who’s spent his life serving his country, the investigation came as a complete surprise. After all, he wasn’t just following his sponsoring organization’s rules, he was following the Army’s! When same-sex couples wanted to join his Strong Bonds marriage retreat, Scott knew he couldn’t, in good conscience, participate. So, he did what Army regulations demanded: he found another chaplain to oversee it. In a lot of ways, his attorney Mike Berry explains, he went “above and beyond” to ensure that “that all soldiers under his care were able to participate.”
It was the perfect compromise, until an Equal Opportunity complaint was filed, turning Chaplain Squires’s life — and career – upside down. The Army launched an investigation, “and while the officer concluded that any ‘discrimination’ was ‘unintentional’ and that the Army’s regulations regarding the matter are ‘unclear,'” Berry says, “he recommended that Chaplain Squires be reprimanded, something that would tarnish the career and reputation of an otherwise exemplary officer and soldier.” Squires couldn’t believe it. After all, as a chaplain, he knew he could lose his sponsorship with the Southern Baptist Convention if he violated their teachings on marriage. Apparently, the Army thinks he should have risked it.
Facing a career-ending punishment, Scott and his legal team at First Liberty Institute have some key allies: Congressmen Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). Together, the House members called out the secretary of the Army and base commander, demanding the charges be lifted. In a letter to both, they write about the ridiculousness of an investigation that ignores the Army’s own regulations.
Citing the religious liberty language in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, they “urge those involved with Chaplain Squires’s investigation to come to a resolution quickly and consider the implications of a decision that contradicts federal law, DOD regulations, and Army regulations. We are hopeful that Chaplain squires will be absolved of any meritless complaints against him, that his record will not reflect this investigation or EO complaint if the investigation ultimately finds in his favor, and that present and future chaplains in the Army Forces will have security in the knowledge that federal law protects them from similar, baseless investigations into the practicing of their religious tenets.”
One of the signatories, Rep. Hudson, joined Fox News’s Todd Starnes to talk about why the punishment of Chaplain Squires is “a huge mistake.” “Someone in the chain of command, someone in the Army, has made a decision that in my opinion violates federal law. It violates the First Amendment rights of this chaplain and the First Amendment rights of every chaplain in the military.” We agree — and join House conservatives and every other American who cares about religious liberty — in calling for a quick resolution to the Army’s outrageous witch hunt. If anyone should be free to exercise their faith, it’s military chaplains!
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