Superior officer, atheists group, sponsors all sound off on officer doing ‘exactly what he is supposed to do’
An uproar has developed after a Ranger-qualified chaplain referenced faith in a seminar on suicide prevention, with his own superior officer, an atheists group and his sponsoring organization all going on the record with what they think a spiritual leader for troops should, or should not, be doing.
The latest move in the dispute involving Chaplain Joe Lawhorn’s November presentation to members of the military comes from a spokesman for his sponsoring organization, retired Chaplain Ronald Crews of Grace Churches International as well as the Chaplain Alliance.
He has written to Lawhorn’s commanding officer, Col. David G. Fivecoat, at Fort Benning, Georgia, to ask him to withdraw what amounts to a letter of reprimand for Lawhorn.
“Chaplain Lawhorn did what good chaplains do; he was candid, genuine, and authentic. He spoke from first person to let his soldiers know that he too deals with depression,” Crews wrote. “Chaplain Lawhorn is an outstanding Army chaplain. He is one of the few Army chaplains to wear the Ranger Tab. He works hard to identify with those he serves. It is through this identification that he shared his story. Revealing his personal struggle with depression required a large measure of courage and mutual trust. Those are precisely the virtues that our Army should encourage in soldiers.”
Crews noted that apparently the only complaint that was raised about Lawhorn was from an outside organization, and Lawhorn’s “use of his faith journey is covered by the Right of Conscience clause passed in the FY2013 NDAA, section 533.”
“If you decide to continue with the Letter of Concern then I request a personal meeting to discuss this with you,” Crews wrote.
A group called Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers earlier took the fight public, on its website about Thanksgiving time accusing Lawhorn of using “his official position to force his personal religious beliefs on a captive military audience.”
Said the report, “Nearly the entire audience of 150 military personnel were junior in rank the (sic) the chaplain and compelled to attend this day-long session of various topics including suicide prevention,” the MAAF report said. “The battalion commander and senior officers were in attendance and apparently condoned the mandatory sermonizing in this event.”
Written by BOB UNRUH
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