Thursday, May 7, 2015

No Mr. Perkins - Military chaplains are not required to "hide their faith"

Tony Perkins

If Tony Perkins ever tells the complete and unedited truth it will be an unintentional coincidence. Today, the leader of the anti-gay hate group, Family Research Council, would have people believe that Christian “persecution” is so rampant that military chaplains are stripped of their faith. According to Perkins in an email sent to supporters:
MARCHING ORDERS: Hide your faith

That's what they told Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn. At a training session on suicide prevention, he told soldiers about his own struggles with depression—and how faith helped him through. He offered participants a handout listing resources for struggling service members, some faith-based and some secular.

On Thanksgiving Day, he found himself in the office of his boss at Fort Benning, Georgia, being handed a "Letter of Concern" accusing him of unlawfully proselytizing.

The letter deemed it unacceptable to list "Army resources on one side" of the handout "and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side"—because it was "impossible for those in attendance to receive the information without also receiving the biblical information."

This cannot stand. When a military chaplain cannot openly speak about his faith, military disarmament has reached a level that no budget cuts could ever produce. …
Not quite. Lawhorn had a captive audience — a formation and was engaged in mandatory suicide prevention training. As Major General Scott Miller (his commander) pointed out, “any religious information given by a Chaplain to a military formation should be limited to an orientation of what religious services and facilities are available and how to contact Chaplains of specific faiths.”

That's not what Mr. Lawhorn did. He turned a lecture on suicide prevention services that were available into a Christian sermon. 

According to Army Times, the letter of concern goes on to state: “As the battalion chaplain, you are entrusted to care for the emotional wellbeing of all soldiers in the battalion. You, above all others, must be cognizant of the various beliefs held by diverse soldiers. During mandatory training briefings, it is imperative you are careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

Worth noting is that Lawhorn had previously been an enlisted man — a cook. Oh, and the reason that Perkins is aware of this is that Lawhorn decided he needed an attorney which was ridiculous. A letter of  concern is placed in someone's local folder until they leave the command. It is not part of their permanent military record and has no effect on their career. And that attorney? Kelly Shackelford's Liberty Institute. They issued a misleading press release. What should have been a private matter is now in the public domain and that poses a peril to Captain Lawhorn's career. As for Shackelford, Right Wing Watch points out that he is one of the Christian right's leading persecution mythologists.

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