Column: US Military Silencing Christian Chaplains

Andrew Miller of the Philadelphia Trumpet — a “prophetic” magazine of the Philadelphia Church of God — recently wrote the US military is making it “illegal for Christian chaplains to give Bible-based advice“. While consistently (and unnecessarily) tying his argument to President Obama, Miller cites three specific events:

The military…has made it known that Christian chaplains are expected to enthusiastically endorse homosexual activity in the ranks, regardless of their religious beliefs.

In 2010, Adm. Michael Mullen told a chaplain who opposed the repeal of the military’s ban on openly homosexual service members, “If you cannot get in line, resign your commission.”

Miller also cited the case of US Navy Chaplain Wes Modder, who was “targeted” by a fellow Sailor who tried to get him kicked out over the tenets of his faith.

Finally, he recalls the case of US Army Chaplain (Capt) Joseph Lawhorn: 

Christian chaplains can still be disciplined for quoting the Bible. Army Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was reprimanded in 2014 for quoting poetry from the book of Psalms during a lecture on depression and suicide prevention at Fort Benning in Georgia.

Setting aside the connection to the President, there is truth in what Miller said. The military under Admiral Mullen did, indeed, tell troops they had to get in line with the acceptance of homosexuality. Chaplains had the option of giving up their careers by having their endorser pull their endorsement, which would have generated an automatic administrative separation. Notably, regular line troops didn’t have that option, so they lacked the ability of the chaplains to “vote with their feet,” as Admiral Mullen famously said.

The case of Chaplain Modder has been extensively discussed here. There appears to be no clearer case of how close homosexual activists within the military came to getting a Christian kicked out because they didn’t like his religion. As previously discussed, there is no public information indicating those activists were punished or counseled for their improper treatment of a fellow Sailor or their lack of tolerance and respect for beliefs different than their own.

Chaplain Lawhorn’s case isn’t far behind Chaplain Modder’s in its audacity. The Army almost explicitly admitted Chaplain Lawhorn was punished not because of something he did, but because someone wrote about him at The initial accusation he’d violated regulations was actually rescinded when the Army realized the accusation was indefensible. While Chaplain Lawhorn’s case has faded into the background, like some others it speaks to the environment of military religious freedom.

These are just three examples (there are others) of an apparent conflict between religious freedom and two sets of up-and-coming social activists — militant atheists and homosexuals. Given how these chaplains were treated and why, it is not unreasonable that someone might look at these incidents and conclude the military is “silencing Christian chaplains.”

If even a chaplain can’t mention his faith without being punished, what can an average US troop do?