Article Aug 10, 2018

Southern Baptist military chaplain investigated for adhering to religious beliefs

An investigation by the U.S. Army recommends that a Southern Baptist chaplain be charged with "dereliction of duty" for failing to accommodate a homosexual couple in a marriage retreat.

Earlier this year a lesbian soldier filed a complaint against Major Scott Squires, claiming he discriminated against her and her spouse by not helping facilitate their attendance at the retreat he was hosting.

According to the First Liberty Institute, the organization representing Squires in the legal proceedings, even though Squires ensured the soldier was placed in the next available retreat, the investigator concluded the chaplain’s conduct was discriminatory, and recommended he receive administrative or non-judicial punishment.

Squires’ chaplain assistant, SSG Kacie Griffin, was also included in the investigation for simply informing the chaplain of the couple’s application, and letting the couple know that Chaplain Squires would want to speak with them about the event. Griffin now faces the prospect of losing her opportunity to receive an officer’s commission and a full ride college scholarship because “one general’s intentional indecision,” says First Liberty.

“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,” stated Mike Berry, Deputy General Counsel and Director of Military Affairs to First Liberty. “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.”

Squires says he could not conduct a marriage retreat with same-sex couples due to the requirements of his chaplain-endorsing agency, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (NAMB). The investigation admits, “CH Squires is protected by the ‘shield’ of the 1st Amendment from being compelled to act in violation of his religious rules and beliefs.” But the Army investigator then adds, “However, the ‘shield’ that is afforded CH Squires does not permit CH Squires, or any Soldier, to use the ‘shield’ as a ‘sword’ to cut off the rights of another.”

Earlier this week Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) released a statement regarding the ongoing investigation.

‘Americans’ right to freedom of conscience is Constitutional and non-negotiable. With that in view, the law requires each chaplain to fulfill their duties without violating their conscience or the tenets of the specific faith-group that endorses their chaplaincy,” said Collins, who is himself a Southern Baptist chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and the only military chaplain serving in Congress. “Unfortunately, Chaplain Scott Squires is being subjected to a meandering investigation that could set a precedent for stripping all chaplains of their fundamental legal protections.’

Collins says the Army’s most recent report comes from the same officer who authored the original account of the case, and that this newest chapter is “riddled with language that seems inconsistent and potentially biased against the faith community.” The congressman says it further prolongs an investigative process that suffers from a “woeful lack of transparency, even though religious liberty, as Constitutional law, is legally paramount.”

“The case of Chaplain Scott Squires highlights how imperative it is that we protect freedom of conscience for every individual in the U.S. military—including the chaplains who minister to them as they carry out the military’s mission together,” adds Collins. “The process surrounding this investigation remains extremely concerning, and Army officials now have the opportunity to deliver a swift, fair resolution after months of prolonging the case.

2019 Evangelicals for Life