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Religious Freedom to Discriminate

2018-AUG: An army chaplain and
his assistant may be charged
with discrimination. NY Catholic
agency suspends adoptions:

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U.S. Army Chaplain Major Scott Squires and his chaplain assistant, SSG Kacie Griffin, may be charged by the Army and face a court martial. If found guilty, they could receive a sentence to a military prison of up to six-months duration.

Major Squires is sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The latter is an evangelical Christian denomination that has adopted more fundamentalist Christian beliefs in recent years. The Convention advocates discrimination against the LGBT community in violation of the Golden Rule. They do not recognize gay marriages or same-sex unions involving lesbians, gays or bisexuals.

An unidentified lesbian soldier approached Major Squires and asked that she and her female partner be scheduled to attend the next Strong Bonds Marriage Retreat. Squires was scheduled to lead that retreat.

According to the Army's Stand-To web site, the Strong Bonds Program:

"... is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army family. The core mission of the Strong Bonds program is to increase individual Soldier and family member readiness through relationship education and skills training. Strong Bonds includes four subprograms applied across the Army Force Generation model: single-Soldier, couple, family, and deployment." 1

Army chaplains sometimes find themselves in a conflict of interest situation.

  • On the one hand, the Army requires all employees, including Chaplains, to not discriminate against the LGBT community. "The Army E.O. policy states that "no service will be denied to any member of the Armed Service, regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation." 4

  • On the other hand, each chaplain is endorsed by a faith group and are expected to follow its beliefs and policies. The NAMB of the SBC advocates such discrimination. Its 2013 memo said:

    "NAMB endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing." 4

Major Squires chose to follow his denomination's policies. He refused the soldiers request on the basis that a same-sex relationship was involved. However, realizing that the next Strong Bonds Program was to be held by a more religiously liberal chaplain who did follow the Golden Rule, he assured the couple that they could attend that program instead of his own. Three days later, he added the couple as attendees to the retreat that followed his.

Following a complaint, presumably from the couple, an Army investigator concluded that the soldier was:

"... denied a service due to her sexual orientation,"

and that the Chaplain did not follow Army policy in accommodating her.

Major Squires and SSG Griffin are represented by First Liberty, a conservative Christian legal defence group located in Plano, TX. They promote religious freedom -- including the religious freedom to discriminate against others. On AUG-15, First Liberty stated on their web site:

"The 'deep state' stench is getting worse. It started with Chaplain Squires being threatened with military prison -- but that wasn’t enough -- now his assistant SSG Kacie Griffin is in the cross hairs because of Major General Sonntag’s deliberate indecision.

It’s time to hold Sonntag accountable for allowing aggressive anti-religious hostility to live in our military. ..." 2

Chaplain Squires said:

"The investigator concluded that I should be reprimanded for doing something I'm required to do under Army regulations and my endorser's rules. I hope the Army sees that I was simply following Army regulations and the tenets of my church." 4

Mike Berry, the Deputy General Counsel and Director of Military Affairs at First Liberty said:

“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. 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." 3

Lt. General Jerry Boykin at the Family Research Center once said:

"If the military wants a chaplain corps, then they have to be prepared for chaplains to be chaplains. A chaplain isn't worth anything if he isn't allowed to minister and counsel according to his faith. If the Army won't allow him to be a chaplain, then he becomes nothing more than a social worker." 4

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2018-AUG: NY: Roman Catholic charity suspends adoptions:

An agency in New York state, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, refused to serve same-sex couples who wanted to adopt a child. This violated the New York state's Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) policy which requires adoption agencies in the state to consider all families equally when they apply to adopt a child. The state office prohibits agencies from discriminating against applicants on the basis of their marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Against the objections of most of its staff, the leaders of Catholic Charities of Buffalo decided that they would suspend all adoption activity rather than serve families headed by same-sex couples. 5 Hopefully, the children on their caseload who were seeking adoptive parents were successfully transferred to other adoption agencies in the area.

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More news about the religious freedom to discriminate later in 2018

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Strong Bonds Program," U.S. Army, 2009-OCT-27, at: https://www.army.mil/
  2. "Anti-religious bias in U.S. Military is ruining careers," 2018-AUG-14, at: https://www.facebook.com/
  3. Lacey McNiel, "Chaplain Scott Squires / SSG Kacie Griffin Case," First Liberty, 2018-AUG-06, at: https://firstliberty.org/
  4. Tony Perkins, "Army Chaplain Bombarded for Marriage View," Family Research Council, 2018-APR-18, at: https://www.frc.org/
  5. Zack Ford, "Hate group files lawsuit to ensure adoption agency can discriminate against same-sex couples," Think Progress, 2018-DEC-11, at: https://thinkprogress.org/

How you may have arrived here:

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Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2018-DEC-12

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