Twenty four members of Congress wrote a letter (PDF) to Secretary of the Army John McHugh questioning the circumstances surrounding the Letter of Concern given to Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn.
While the Army has maintained that Chaplain Lawhorn wasn’t “punished” (and therefore there is apparently nothing to discuss), the Congressmen communicated their concerns that even the “administrative action” was chilling to rights protected under the law and Constitution:
We believe this administrative action sets a dangerous precedent for Army suicide prevention initiatives, the role of Army chaplains, and most importantly, the ability for service members to exercise and express religious beliefs, as protected under the First Amendment and reinforced by current law and DoD regulations.
The letter also raises concerns that the action Read more
- Jewish Endorser Backs Punished Christian Chaplain
- Chaplain Lawhorn Requests Religious Accommodation
- Commander Denies Request to Rescind Letter of Concern
- Atheist Soldier Derides Christian Faith
Jewish Endorser Backs Punished Christian Chaplain
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim, a Jewish endorsing agent for US military chaplains, has publicly backed US Army Chaplain (Capt) Joseph Lawhorn — a Christian chaplain punished for sharing his personal story of how faith enabled him to weather depression [emphasis added]:
[YPS] believe[s] the Letter of Concern is inappropriate and will have negative consequences on all military chaplains…
YPS supports the right Read more
Update: Chaplain Lawhorn’s attorney responds to the Army characterization here, and Chaplain Lawhorn says
As is the case with every endeavor or circumstance in my life, my ultimate intention will be to bring honor to God. To that end, I will be praying and pursuing as this case and these circumstances continue to evolve.
The Army responded to the outcry over the story of US Army Chaplain (Capt) Joe Lawhorn being punished for sharing his personal story of battling with depression by saying he wasn’t, in fact, punished:
Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, [said] in a statement on Friday: “A local letter of concern is not punishment. Rather, it is an administrative counseling tool, with no long-term consequences.”
So the Army is saying that an officer was ordered to report in to his boss’s boss, was told he was violating US Army regulations, and was told his personnel record would reflect this adverse response — but he wasn’t being punished?
Whether it is “punishment” within the military lexicon is ultimately irrelevant. The Army officially responded negatively to a chaplain only because an atheist complained that the chaplain said something religious — even when there was nothing wrong with him saying something religious. The chaplain’s lawyer maintains the official negative response is inconsistent with military regulations and the US Constitution — charges to which the Army has not yet responded.
The chaplain’s ecclesiastical endorser has likewise asked the commander to rescind the letter.
Update: Chaplain Lawhorn’s initial LOC is now available, and, as reported, it hinges entirely on (subsequently rescinded) violations of two regulations — and this interesting justification:
As a result, an individual in attendance wrote an article about the event on http://militaryatheists.org.
It would be interesting to see the Army cite a regulation that supports action against a Soldier because “a person wrote an accusation on the internet…”
Update: Now covered at the Army Times, the Christian Post, the Gospel Herald, the Daily Caller, and Opposing Views. Atheist Jason Torpy responded to the “evangelical backlash” over his accusations against the Army.
The Liberty Institute is now representing a chaplain who was punished by the US Army for mentioning his faith during a unit training day:
On November 20, 2014, Chaplain Lawhorn conducted suicide prevention training [in which he] discussed his own personal struggles and how he used the Bible to successfully combat his depression. One of the soldiers in attendance complained to an atheist group about Chaplain Lawhorn’s presentation. In response…Colonel David G. Fivecoat, issued Chaplain Lawhorn a Letter of Concern alleging that Chaplain Lawhorn “advocated for…Christianity and used Christian scripture and solutions” and therefore violated Army regulations.
The complaint was shepherded by atheist and former Army Captain Jason Torpy, who published the complaint online 24 hours after the event — meaning it was public even before the Army had a chance to respond. The Army may also have been influenced by the publication of the “scandal.”
In a seeming admission the commander might have gone too far, Col Fivecoat apparently called Army Chaplain (Capt) Joseph Lawhorn back Read more