A U.S. Army chaplain is facing a dereliction of duty charge and potentially six months in a military prison after not accepting a same-sex couple in a marriage retreat, even though he ensured the two women they could take part in the next scheduled retreat with a different chaplain, according to his attorney.
U.S. Army Chaplain Maj. Scott Squires – who is Southern Baptist – faces the charge on a technicality. The Army report says the lesbian soldier who requested attendance at the Strong Bonds marriage retreat was “denied a service due to her sexual orientation.” But the same Army report says the charge is not for denying her a service but instead for not following Army policy in accommodating her until after a complaint was filed.
Squires, though, said he followed Army policy. As a chaplain endorsed by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, he is prohibited from endorsing same-sex relationships. His chaplain assistant, SSG Kacie Griffin, faces a similar charge by the Army.
First Liberty is representing Squires.
“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,” said Mike Berry of 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.”
First Liberty contends Squires complied with Army and Southern Baptist Convention rules when he “promptly rescheduled the marriage retreat with a new chaplain within three business days for the sole purpose of ensuring the same-sex couple could attend.”
Squires said he did “what I’m required to do under Army regulations and my endorser’s rules.”
“I am shocked that I would even be investigated, let alone threatened with punishment, for following the rules,” he said.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who also is a military chaplain, spoke out in favor of Squires.
“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,” Collins said. “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.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Publication Date: August 13, 2018
Photo Courtesy: Thinkstock
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.