A decorated Army chaplain at Fort Bragg in North Carolina could face a possible court martial and even military prison after he explained to a soldier he could not conduct a marriage retreat that included same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs, his attorneys allege.
An Army investigator under the command of Major General Kurt Sonntag recommended that Chaplain Scott Squires be found guilty of “dereliction of duty” for taking three business days to reschedule the “Strong Bonds” marriage retreat he was prohibited from facilitating.
Squires, who was officially accused of discrimination, is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB).
According to NAMB policy, chaplains are prohibited from conducting “Strong Bonds” events for same-sex couples. The policy clearly states “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…nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation.”
When Squires realized he could not participate in the “Strong Bonds” event, he rescheduled the conference to accommodate a lesbian couple with a chaplain who could oversee the retreat. However, the same-sex couple chose not to attend.
Had Squires participated in the marriage retreat he would have risked losing his endorsement by the Southern Baptists. Likewise, the Army requires its chaplains to adhere to their endorsers’ rules and religious tenets.
“I simply did what I’m required to do under Army regulations and my endorser’s rules,” Chaplain Squires said. “I am shocked that I would even be investigated, let alone threatened with punishment, for following the rules.”
The Army investigator determined that while Chaplain Squires is protected by the “shield of the 1st Amendment from being compelled to act in violation of his religious rules and beliefs” – there are limitations.
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