NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Concerns are being raised after a Southern Baptist military chaplain recently conducted a “transgender policy briefing” for members of an Army reserves unit that is based in Nashville—a briefing that was mandatory and was determined by the chaplain as not being violative of the convictions of Christian soldiers.
On June 23, the 304 Military Police Battalion advised soldiers that they were required to attend a “transgender policy briefing” that day.
One soldier within the unit, who identifies as a Christian and was concerned about the briefing, contacted Chaplain Capt. Erick Barrett to obtain information and spiritual counsel about the instructional period. Barrett received his ecclesiastical endorsement from the North American Mission Board, which is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention.
However, to his surprise and dismay, the soldier learned that it was actually Barrett himself who would be conducting the briefing. The soldier, whose identity has not been revealed, was even more surprised when Barrett advised that he didn’t think the training would be violative of his faith.
Barrett nonetheless passed along the soldier’s desire for a religious accommodation to Commander Lt. Col. Kim Wilson, who denied the request. The soldier followed up with a letter.
“Capt. Erick Barrett informed me that he did not believe the ‘Transgender Brief’ would violate my sincerely-held belief; however, [he] would submit my request for accommodation through the chain of command,” the soldier explained to Wilson.
“The ‘Transgender Policy Brief and Training’ requires me to participate in something that I believe is contrary to what my religion teaches,” he explained. “… I do believe that participation in such training will bind my conscience to another religion, thus violating my conscience and faith tenants.”
Wilson again denied the request, stating that the briefing was mandatory under the direction of the Army. The soldier consequently attended the instructional session against his will.
The site Barbwire has published audio of the briefing, which Christian News Network has reviewed. During the hour-long session, Barrett took those present through the Army’s new policy on accommodating transgenders in the military, advising that the briefing “isn’t about what Chaplain Barrett believes,” but rather Army protocol. He asked how soldiers can follow the policy if they aren’t aware of it.
“How many different gender identities are there in the world today?” Barrett quizzed those gathered, advising that there are 42. “Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where truth is defined by the individual. That’s a reality. It’s not something that’s up for discussion. That’s just the world we live in.”
He outlined, however, that the U.S. military only recognizes two genders—male and female—and that soldiers will be held to the standard that aligns with that gender. So, when a woman decides to be a man or a man decides to be a woman, they will be held to the standard for that gender.
Barrett repeatedly stated that all soldiers are to be afforded dignity and respect, and emphasized that in the Army, “We do not discriminate, we do not isolate, we do not segregate.” At one point, he remarked that for a long time, “there have been men [in the military] that look like girls and girls that look like men.”
He also provided the example of a male soldier who transitions into a woman and quizzed soldiers on whether or not it would be considered proper under Army policy for the man to now use the women’s facilities.
“A transgender soldier begins using female barracks, bathroom and shower facilities. Because she did not undergo a surgical change, the soldier still has male genitalia. Is the soldier using the correct facilities?” Barrett asked.
“Yes,” the soldiers replied.
“Is the soldier operating within Army policy?” he asked.
“Yes,” those present again answered.
Revelation of Barrett’s leadership of the briefing has generated disappointment from others in the Armed Forces, including Capt. Sonny Hernandez, who serves as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. Hernandez characterized the chaplain-led presentation as being “godless.”
“There was no reference of Scripture, God, Jesus, repentance, or faith, which would be expected of an ecclesiastically endorsed evangelical who claims to be a Christian,” he wrote for Barbwire on Saturday. “For almost an hour, Chaplain Barrett pontificated about the Army’s policy on transitioning from male to female, or female to male, and reiterated innumerable times how soldiers’ gender is determined—while God was not included in this determination.”
“Chaplain Barrett did not exercise ‘responsible pastoral care,’ since he never mentioned that transgenderism ‘is a sin that violates God’s biblical standards,’ nor did he reference ‘repentance’ or the ‘Name of Jesus.’ After listening to the audio, objective listeners would never even know this chaplain is a professing Christian,” Hernandez lamented.
The North American Mission Board has described Barrett’s decision to conduct the transgender policy briefing as being “unfortunate” and states that it will provide “clearer guidance” to chaplains about such matters for the future.
Editor’s Note: Hernandez’ opinions are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military or religious organization. Hernandez contributed to this report, an issue of public interest, as a civilian on his own time.