Army Punishes Chaplain For Discussing His Personal Faith During Suicide Prevention Training

Army Ranger Chaplain Punished For Sharing Personal Struggle; Liberty Institute Responds To Commander's Religious Discrimination

Dec 09, 2014, 16:32 ET from Liberty Institute

FORT BENNING, Ga., Dec. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Liberty Institute, on behalf of U.S. Army Chaplain (Captain) Joe Lawhorn, responded to the Army's punishment against him on December 8, 2014. On November 20, 2014, Chaplain Lawhorn conducted suicide prevention training as required by Army regulations. During the training, he discussed his own personal struggles and how he used the Bible to successfully combat his depression. One of the soldiers in attendance complained to an atheist group about Chaplain Lawhorn's presentation. In response, Army Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade Commander, Colonel David G. Fivecoat, issued Chaplain Lawhorn a Letter of Concern alleging that Chaplain Lawhorn "advocated for . . . Christianity and used Christian scripture and solutions" and therefore violated Army regulations.

Liberty Institute responded by demanding that Colonel Fivecoat withdraw the Letter of Concern.  In its response, Liberty Institute pointed out that Army regulations and policy not only permit chaplains to discuss spiritual matters during suicide prevention training, but it is officially encouraged. Colonel Fivecoat directed Chaplain Lawhorn to report to his office on Thanksgiving Day, and he issued a Letter of Concern alleging that Chaplain Lawhorn violated Army Equal Opportunity policy. Late yesterday, Colonel Fivecoat acknowledged that Chaplain Lawhorn did not violate Army Equal Opportunity policy, but refused to withdraw the Letter of Concern. To view a copy of Liberty Institute's response, follow this link:

"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," said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel and Director of Military Affairs.
"That is the very definition of looking out for your soldiers. And to be punished for it on Thanksgiving Day adds insult to injury. At a time when military suicides are increasing, one would assume the last thing the Army should do is punish a soldier who is trying to prevent them."

Liberty Institute's letter also states that punishing Chaplain Lawhorn because of his religious expression violates the Constitution, federal and state law, and military regulations.

Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty's vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation's Founders. For information, visit

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SOURCE Liberty Institute