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Tony Perkins / April 19, 2018

Army Chaplain Bombarded for Marriage View

Army Chaplain Scott Squires has been to battles all over the world — but he never imagined he’d be fighting his biggest one right here at home.

Army Chaplain Scott Squires has been to battles all over the world — but he never imagined he’d be fighting his biggest one right here at home. For Squires, who’s spent 25 years serving his country, no one was more surprised than he was that the same military that hired him for his faith is now punishing him for exercising it. Turns out, some Obama-era habits are hard to break.

Like a lot of chaplains, Scott watched the military change under the last administration. He saw morale tank. He heard the unbelievable stories of airmen, sailors, and Marines who were targeted for their faith. And until Wes Modder nearly lost his job, he might have thought military chaplains were safe. Squires found out this year how wrong he was. The administration may have changed, but the intolerant attitudes of some have not.

When he was transferred to Fort Bragg last year, Squires picked up where he’d left off at other bases with the Army’s Strong Bonds program. For years, he’d been speaking at the event, trying to help soldiers develop healthier relationships in a stressful military life that’s led to some of the highest divorce rates in the country. When a lesbian couple wanted to join the marriage retreat, Scott realized he couldn’t, in good conscience, participate. So, he did what Army regulations demanded: He found another chaplain to oversee it.

Now, even though he followed Army policy, he could lose his job! To this couple, Scott’s actions weren’t an accommodation, they were “discrimination.” An official military investigation was launched — and Squires, despite his chaplain status, is being recommended for discipline! “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,” the report reads. “CH Squires should be reprimanded for his failure to include (name deleted) in the initial Strong Bonds Retreat.”

Asked how he was taking the news, Squires said he was “shocked.” After all, his attorneys at First Liberty point out, he was following the Army’s own policy! He couldn’t lead the session, so he found someone who could. If anything, this should be a lesson in the art of compromise. His solution accomplished the perfect balance of accommodating his faith and serving these women. Even so, he points out, “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.”

Remember when the Pentagon said religious liberty wouldn’t be a casualty of open homosexuality in the military? So do we. Unfortunately, it’s just another broken promise of the same-sex marriage movement. Now, because of the culture of hostility created in the military under Obama, the Army refuses to accept a compromise that should have satisfied everyone. But, as we should all know by now, the Left isn’t interested in coexistence. Instead, it wants to punish a father of three who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East.

And of course, there’s the other piece of this, which is Chaplain Squires’s sponsoring organization: the Southern Baptist Convention. As Fox News’s Todd Starnes explains, the SBC’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) doesn’t support same-sex marriage — and its 2013 memo reiterated as much. “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.” He’s not only bound by his own conviction but the conviction of his military sponsors. And yet this investigator thinks Chaplain Squires should be punished just for explaining his beliefs to the offended soldier!

Mike Berry, Squires’s attorney at First Liberty, can’t believe the terrible precedent this would set. “That would mean a chaplain can’t even talk about their religious beliefs without being accused of discrimination. That would strip thousands of chaplains across our military of their most basic freedoms under the First Amendment.” Something this president, who’s fought to restore religious liberty, would never stand for.

As FRC’s own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin has 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.”

If anyone should be free to exercise his or her faith, shouldn’t it be chaplains? It’s time for the Army to refresh its memory on a little thing called the First Amendment and reread the president’s executive order on religious liberty. Both documents ought to be all the proof they need that Chaplain Squires is guilty of nothing but doing his job. And, by all accounts, doing it well.

Originally published here.

Trial by Error: American Pastor back behind Bars

They may not have had any evidence against American pastor Andrew Brunson, but that didn’t stop Turkish officials from holding a 13-hour hearing. For the North Carolina father, who’s spent the last 500 days in jail, it was another grueling chapter in the persecution of an innocent man.

Facing up to 35 years in prison, Brunson had hoped the day would end in his release. But despite the high-profile presence of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, the outcome didn’t quite go as planned. Although the State Department argues the Turkish government has no credible proof to convict Pastor Brunson, he’s back behind bars until another court date on May 7.

“We believe that Turkey is a state bound by the rule of law, and we have faith in the Turkish people’s commitment to justice. We hope that the judicial system in Turkey will resolve his case in a timely, fair, and transparent manner,” U.S. officials said. The charges that Brunson was involved in a terrorist organization all came from two “secret” witnesses who refused to testify publicly. “Why,” he said to the court, “would I do the things that you say … I did when my whole life and ministry here in Turkey would be at risk?”

President Trump, who’s been working behind the scenes for Brunson’s release, tweeted his support for the American Tuesday. “Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a spy, but I am more a spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!” For the White House, which has made religious liberty a top priority of the administration, the president’s involvement sends a powerful message to Turkey — and any nation — that America will not sit back and let other countries trample on the freedom of people of faith.

On Tuesday’s “Washington Watch,” I had the chance to catch up with Ambassador Brownback on his way back from the trial. The fight, he said, is far from over.

President Trump has raised this with President Erdogan. It’s been communicated at that level. It’s been communicated by the vice president, by the secretary of state, and then Sen. Tillis and I were there in the courtroom yesterday and were very hopeful yesterday that he would be released, and he and his wife could fly home. And not only did they not do that, but they returned him to the first prison he was in, where Pastor Brunson had great difficulties. So I was meeting with the Turkish officials today, the deputy prime minister, people in the foreign affairs ministry, [telling them], “You’ve got to get him in a better condition, and this is wrong.” There are serious consequences to the U.S.-Turkey relationship centered around what happens to Pastor Brunson. We’re going to keep the pressure on, and aggressively.

As harrowing as Pastor Brunson’s experience has been, it would be a whole lot worse without the help of the current administration. At least he and his family know they have an advocate in Donald Trump and his entire leadership team. Under President Obama, who knows what they would have had? In the meantime, we continue to pray for his release — and an end to the suffering of so many men and women like him.

Originally published here.

Coast Guard Adrift on Trans Policy

Ignoring your boss’s directions isn’t usually the best career decision. But that’s exactly what Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft is doing on his commander-in-chief’s transgender policy.

During Tuesday’s Homeland Security hearing in the House, the admiral was open about his intent to defy the rule. For Zukunft, who’s been critical of the policy from the beginning, his posture was nothing new. When Donald Trump asked for a study on the impact of opening the military’s doors to people who identify as transgender, most service chiefs were outspoken about the risks. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard commandant wasn’t one of them.

Breaking with the Pentagon’s brass, he told reporters that he personally called “all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out as transgender” to reassure them that he “would not turn [his] back” after the president tweeted his intent to change the rule last year. “We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.” But if Zukunft thinks prolonging the distraction is good for the troops, he’s in the minority. Only 16 percent of people serving in the military think Obama’s policy was good for morale. Fifty-seven percent oppose it outright. But in this case, the only opinion that matters is the White House’s. Yet that’s the very one the commandant is flouting.

Despite a full analysis from the Pentagon — and the president’s official policy change — Zukunft argued to House members that the issue had not been “reconciled” among all the branches. Four more active-duty Coast Guardsmen have identified as transgender since the president’s rollback last year. “We are certainly committed to their continued service in the United States Coast Guard. We will make sure there is one policy for all service members.” But if the head of Coast Guard cares about the troops he represents, he’ll stop peddling his own agenda and follow orders. Otherwise, his commander-in-chief might want to find someone who will.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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