The war on Christianity rages on and it has claimed a new victim. This time the victim is a decorated Army chaplain, a 25-year veteran of the Army who previously served as an enlisted soldier. He is currently facing what his attorneys have dubbed a “career-ending punishment.”
Maj. J. Scott Squires chose to live by his religious convictions and refused to conduct a marriage retreat that included same-s*x couples. Chaplain Scott Squires believes as the Bible states that marriage is between one man and one woman and he lives by what he says he believes.
Now a military investigator at Fort Bragg in North Carolina has determined Chaplain Squires should be disciplined for his refusal to perform to include a lesbian couple in the Strong Bonds marriage retreat sponsored by the 1st Special Warfare Training Group. Investigators determined his refusal discriminated against a soldier based on her sexual orientation. But did it really?
Rather than raise a fuss when he realized he could not in good conscience participate in the event, Squires chose to reschedule the event in an effort to accommodate the lesbian couple but still maintain his own religious convictions by not participating.
He met with the sergeant and informed her that his religious denomination did not recognize same-s*x unions and since he was the person facilitating the retreat, the event would be handed off to another chaplain without the same restrictions to oversee. However, this accommodation was not good enough.
The investigator’s report read: “The Army EO policy states that no service will be denied to any member of the Armed Service regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. CH Squires should be reprimanded for his failure to include (name deleted) in the initial Strong Bonds Retreat.”
Attorney Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty law firm representing the chaplain, states there is even more to the story. Chaplain Squires is endorsed by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and as such he is forbidden from facilitating marriage retreats that include same-s*x couples.
According to the Southern Baptist memo on this very topic released in 2013, it plainly states “NAMB endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-s*x couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-s*x relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing.”
Had he chosen to participate in this marriage retreat as this investigator suggests, he would in all likelihood have lost his endorsement by the Southern Baptists. Additionally, the Army requires its chaplains to adhere to their endorsers’ rules and religious tenets.
Berry emphatically states: “Chaplain Squires should not have his career ruined for following the rules of both his faith and the Army. That would mean a chaplain can’t even talk about their religious beliefs without being accused of discrimination. That would strip thousands of chaplains across our military of their most basic freedoms under the First Amendment.”
At least two other Fort Bragg chaplains, including the senior chaplains for U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, have offered their support for Squires.
What is even more alarming and indeed disturbing given the current Masterpiece Bakery case that is pending a decision before the Supreme Court at this very moment, the investigator found Chaplain Squires had also been discriminatory for simply explaining his religious beliefs and the reason for the reschedule to the lesbian soldier. Masterpiece Bakery is a case about a Colorado baker who the state of Colorado ruled should be forced to bake wedding cakes for same-s*x weddings in spite of his personal religious beliefs forcing him to forgo making wedding cakes altogether. The case was brought before the Supreme Court in January 2018 and many proponents of liberty and that it entails anxiously await the decision that will determine if in a country whose very foundation is that of religious liberty will force Christians to defy their own religious convictions.
Berry states this should not even be a topic of discussion, yet here we are. Federal law protects the chaplain and prohibits the military from punishing any chaplain acting in accordance with their religious beliefs, at least on paper and in theory. Yet, here Chaplain Spires is involved in a legal battle to save his career after attempting to live by his own convictions and in accordance with his endorsement and within the bounds of what the Army requires.
Berry states: “Chaplains should not have to give up their First Amendment rights in order to serve.”
As it currently stands, Chaplain Squires is facing discipline and the potential end of his distinguished and unblemished military career by the Army for following the Army’s very own regulations.
Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, the commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School states: “This is an ongoing investigation. We take every discrimination claim seriously and afford all members of our community the right to equality. The command embraces the diversity of each individual in our organization and welcomes the responsibility to create an inclusive workplace.”