FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A Southern Baptist Army chaplain is pushing back after a military investigator concluded that he discriminated against a lesbian woman by declining to conduct a marriage retreat after learning that she had signed up to attend the event with her partner.
According to the First Liberty Institute, the unnamed Army equal opportunity investigator recommended that Chaplain Scott Squires should be disciplined for rescheduling the “Strong Bonds” marriage retreat in February so that another chaplain who doesn’t share his convictions about marriage could oversee it instead.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) specifically prohibits its chaplains from participating in any same-sex “wedding” or retreat that would seemingly affirm homosexual relationships. Chaplains could lose their ecclesiastical endorsement for doing so.
“In harmony with holy Scripture, 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,” the NAMB guidelines state.
Squires had been asked to lead the Army-sponsored retreat, and he initially obliged. However, after learning that a lesbian woman and her partner signed up to attend the event, Squires outlined that he was consequently prohibited by the NAMB from participating, and moved the date so another chaplain could lead it instead, as well as to accommodate the women.
While the lesbians participated in the rescheduled retreat, one of them filed a equal opportunity complaint against Squires for not allowing her to be in the originally-planned event. The Army investigated and concluded that Squires had discriminated against the female soldier.
“The Army EO 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,” the investigator wrote, according to conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
“CH Squires behaved as if his NAMB restrictions superseded [the soldier’s] right to attend the event,” he asserted. “CH Squires should be reprimanded for his failure to include [the soldier] in the initial Strong Bonds Retreat.”
Squire’s attorneys with the First Liberty Institute note that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) specifically prohibits the military from mandating that a chaplain “perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain.”
“Chaplain Squires should not have his career ruined for following the rules of both his faith and the Army,” said Director of Military Affairs Mike Berry. “Federal law protects Chaplain Squires and prohibits the military from punishing any chaplain who acts in accordance with their religious tenets.”
“I was shocked the investigator concluded that I should be reprimanded for doing something I’m required to do under Army regulations and my endorser’s rules,” Squires also stated. “I hope the Army sees that I was simply following Army regulations and the tenets of my church.”
Berry has submitted a letter to the Army, requesting that the determination be reversed.
1 Timothy 5:22 teaches, “[N]either be partaker of other men’s sins; keep thyself pure.”