Chaplain Calvert Appeals Punishment for Transgender Comments
US Army Chaplain (Maj) Andrew Calvert made a Facebook comment in January that attracted the attention of critics – and eventually his chain of command. It has now been revealed that Chaplain Calvert received a “General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand” (also called a “GOMOR”) from III Corps commander LtGen Robert “Pat” White. This reprimand from a General Officer (rather than a lower level supervisor or commander) is a potentially career-ending punishment, and it accuses Calvert of “violating military equal opportunity policy and violating Department of Defense policy on political activities.”
With the help of First Liberty, Chaplain Calvert is appealing that punishment.
Chaplain Calvert was the subject of a 15-6 Investigation, so named because of Army Regulation 15-6 that provides guidance for it. Army 15-6 investigators are not lawyers nor law enforcement; rather, they are “regular” officers who are assigned the investigation as an additional duty. As a result, it is not unusual for a 15-6 report to reflect the biases (and ignorance) of the investigator, even though the reports are supposed to be reviewed by a lawyer. You may recall that US Army Chaplain (Maj) Scott Squires was also the subject of a 15-6 in 2018. The investigating officer in that case was forced to publish a second, revised report and admitted that portions of the initial report were “a misstatement of fact and law.” But he only did so after First Liberty publicly rebutted the initial 15-6 report. (Thanks in large part to First Liberty, the Army ultimately rejected the 15-6 report and exonerated Chaplain Squires.)
First Liberty Institute General Counsel Mike Berry – previously a US Marine Corps JAG – represented Chaplain Squires in 2018, and he wrote a strong defense of Chaplain Calvert this week.
For example, First Liberty pointed out that the 15-6 found Chaplain Calvert committed “unlawful discrimination”, but the Army failed to establish both of the elements required by its own regulations for such a finding. As it was required to do, the Army failed to provide evidence Chaplain Calvert had created a hostile work environment through his personal Facebook comment. Without actions, words are not unlawful discrimination.
First Liberty also highlighted that the claim of improper political activity, as noted above in the GOMOR, didn’t even make sense. More significantly, the regulations are being unequally applied, since transgender troops were allowed to protest – in uniform, even – against current policy in 2019, yet Chaplain Calvert is not permitted to speak in favor of current policies – out of uniform, while in his personal capacity – today.
That’s an important point: Regardless what one thinks about what Chaplain Calvert said in January, the DoD policies were still the same as they had been under President Trump. In other words, he was speaking in support of current regulations. How can supporting present military policies be “political activity”?
Finally, the obvious issue is that Chaplain Calvert’s comment was consistent with an expression of his religious beliefs. For better or worse (depending on your point of view), opposition to the normalization of transgenderism in society is associated with conservative Christianity. Chaplain Calvert’s comment was a layman’s wording of a fairly basic Christian belief on gender and sexuality. Recognizing that, the Army is not only not allowed to punish him for those comments, it must protect his right to make those comments. That requirement is fairly explicit in DoDI 1300.17. It has been enshrined in both law and military policy for several years, though those policy updates tend to be used more often to permit beards and unusual headwear than permit something more exclusive.
Chaplain Calvert’s statements in January may not have been “tidy”. They did not cite a chapter and verse of a religious text, nor did they promote Jesus’ “love” above all else, as some are wont to do. But the fact remains that a member of the US military may speak the tenets of their faith – especially when they do so personally, apart from their official position in the military.
To reject one’s God-given biology is, explicitly, to reject reality. The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths affirm this (as does common sense). To make such a statement publicly is no different than asserting that one’s own faith is the true faith, or that homosexuality is contrary to nature and God’s created design, or that stealing is a sin. Each is a tenet of faith, even if it is couched in the terms of religious conflict, LGBT “protections”, or looting following protests against the police. Their context does not make them a political or otherwise unprotected statement.
Not everyone will like hearing things like that, but it is worth remembering that the protection of human rights is most necessary when people oppose each other’s ideas and ideology. After all, if everyone agreed, from what would we need protection? Besides, diversity is a good thing, so they say, and that includes diversity of thought — not just diversity in sexuality or non-binary genders.
Military regulations that protect the expression of religious faith do not cease if that expression offends someone. While it may have been the politically expedient — or even “woke” — outcome, the 15-6 investigator was wrong to conclude that Chaplain Calvert’s Facebook post violated military policies and regulations. LtGen Robert “Pat” White may be overcorrecting in his attempt to claw back a toxic culture at Fort Hood, but, should he choose to let the GOMOR stand, it is he who will be violating military policies and regulations – as well as the US Constitution.