An Army chaplain is facing punishment because he abided by the tenets of his faith, according to attorneys defending Chaplain Scott Squires.
Squires, who has been serving at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, ran afoul of the Army’s rules when he told a soldier he could not hold a marriage retreat that included same-sex couples.
“Chaplain Squires is a Southern Baptist chaplain, so he has to follow the teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Mike Berry, an attorney at First Liberty Institute, which is representing Squires in his appeal of the punishment leveled against him this spring.
Squires is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.
“NAMB, just like many other endorsing organizations, prohibits their chaplains from facilitating or providing religious services that include same sex couples, such as a marriage retreat like this,” Berry said, according to Army Times.
Berry said Squires offered the soldier an alternative event under a different chaplain.
“In this instance, Squires did exactly what Army regulations tell him to do, which is to reschedule the event,” Berry said. “In fact, the event was rescheduled at the detriment of other couples who could not attend the new event.”
“But that’s what the procedures say to do, so that’s what he did,” Berry added.
In its investigation, however, the Army said Squires put his personal philosophy ahead of that of the Army and discriminated against the soldiers wanting to participate in the retreat. It said he acted with a “complete lack of urgency” by waiting three days to reschedule the event.
The investigation recommended Squires be found guilty of violating Army Equal Opportunity policy and be given “an administrative or non-judicial punishment.”
The investigation also called for punishment against Kacie Griffin, who was an assistant to Squires, for not working faster to resolve the issue.
“I simply did what I’m required to do under Army regulations and my endorser’s rules,” Squires said, according to columnist Todd Starnes, who has written about the chaplain’s case. “I am shocked that I would even be investigated, let alone threatened with punishment, for following the rules.”
Berry told Starnes that the real misconduct was committed by Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, who authored the report calling for Squires to be punished.
“The United States Army, acting under the command of Major General Sonntag, is threatening to punish one of its chaplains because he followed the rules,” he said. “The Army, or Congress, must hold Major General Sonntag accountable for allowing this aggressive anti-religious hostility against its military chaplains to occur under his command.”
“Major General Sonntag must immediately reject this investigation, if any chaplain under his command is to have the confidence that he or she will be protected when following military policy,” Berry says. “No chaplain should face the specter of a court martial and military prison for following the rules of their faith and the Army.”
In an op-ed for The Daily Caller, Berry explained why he is fighting the case.
“Inexplicably, even though the Army investigator concluded that any ‘discrimination’ was ‘unintentional’ and that the Army’s regulations regarding the matter are ‘unclear,’ he recommended that Chaplain Squires be reprimanded, something that would tarnish the career and reputation of an otherwise exemplary officer and soldier,” Berry wrote.
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