A U.S. Army chaplain claiming that he was unfairly punished after he shared his faith during a suicide prevention training is fighting back, demanding through a conservative legal firm representing him that a commander rescind a letter of concern that was issued over the incident.
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The Liberty Institute is asking that Army Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade Commander, Colonel David G. Fivecoat withdraw his claims against Captain Joe Lawhorn, which were issued on Thanksgiving Day .
"You provided a two-sided handout that listed Army resources on one side and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side," the letter read in part, according to conservative commentator Todd Starnes. "This made it impossible for those in attendance to receive the resource information without also receiving the biblical information."
The debate surrounds the contents of a suicide prevention training that was held November 20, during which Lawhorn reportedly handed out a faith-based document, shared how he used the Bible to combat the depression he once suffered and recited scripture.
One of the soldiers in attendance at the University of North Georgia event was offended by the mention of the Christian faith and subsequently reported the chaplain to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, according to a press release.
That's when Fivecoat, following negative press over the incident, reportedly responded with the letter of concern, alleging that Lawhorn had advocated for the Christian faith and, thus, violated Army regulations.
Former Army Captain Jason Torpy, an outspoken atheist, had posted a complaint online, which charged Lawhorn with using "his official position to force his personal religious beliefs on a captive military audience" during the mandatory suicide prevention event.
The Liberty Institute is defending the chaplain, though, claiming that he was merely sharing his own personal experience and that the reprimand is a violation of Lawhorn's constitutional and legal rights.
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In fact, the firm claims that the National Defense Authorization Act, section 533, protected Lawhorn's comments during the training session, according to Starnes.
"It is outrageous that an Army chaplain would have his career threatened because he cared so much about his soldiers that he opened up to them about his personal struggles, and what worked for him," Liberty Institute senior counsel Mike Berry said in a statement. "That is the very definition of looking out for your soldiers. And to be punished for it on Thanksgiving Day adds insult to injury."
The God and Country blog also claims that Fivecoat purportedly called Lawhorn back to give him a different version of the letter of concern two weeks after issuing the first one.
That second letter reportedly said that Lawhorn didn't violate Army regulations, though the text still expressed concerns, which God and Country said could be evidence that "the commander might have gone too far" in issuing his initial rebuke.
(H/T: God and Country)
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