We have a problem within the mindset of America. We have somehow come to the idea that there are certain things that we are forbidden to do, and we never question. This was the case with an Army Colonel last month. He received a complaint about one of his chaplains. Colonel David Fivecoat then reprimanded Captain Joseph Lawhorn.
It appears that Cpt. Lawhorn drew the attention of the atheist group MilitaryAtheist.org. The Captain did this by handing out material at mandatory suicide prevention training on Nov. 20th. On one side of the leaflet was printed information concerning biblical approaches to handling depression, on the other side of the leaflet was a list of Army resources.
In response to the atheist group, the Colonel wrote a letter of concern, well actually two. The first was an inaccurate account of the offense. The Colonel wrongly assumed the actions taken by the Chaplain was a violation of the Army’s equal opportunities policy. He later revised his letter to exclude such language.
There is good news on this issue though. The good news is that there will be no further action it seems. The Washington Times reports that Chaplain Lawhorn has the support of his commanding officer. They report Maj. Gen. Scott Miller as saying:
“Regarding the issue expressed by someone during the class, the role of military chaplains is to serve the religious needs of military members of a unit and their families. Their role is not to provide religious instruction during non-religious mandatory training classes.”
The General said that this letter only remains in the Chaplain’s files until the officer who sent the letter is sent to another station. Colonel Fivecoat is scheduled to be transferred to another base soon.
The issue is two-fold though. First, that the Colonel was so quick to give in to the atheist group is troubling. The assumption is that religion is not allowed. This is a paradigm shift. It used to be, there would have been at least some resistance to this kind of complaint. Yet, the supposed offense occurred on the 20th of November and the first letter of concern was filed on the 27th of the same month.
This points to the fact there was an assumption that what the chaplain had done was wrong. The Colonel may have himself been disturbed by the chaplain’s action. Maybe he thought that it was wrong that one of the Rangers in the training was forced to look at the Christian material.
Either way, there seems to be no way this was not, as the Chaplain’s lawyer pointed out, a knee jerk reaction on the part of Fivecoat. But there is also the side issue of the leaflet itself. No one was standing over the Ranger forcing him to read or accept the information. That this man was so offended by words is in itself troubling. What kind of men are we producing in this country?
Lastly, there are the words of the general. He said that it was the job of the Chaplain, all chaplains to provide for the “religious needs of military members.” He further added, “Their role is not to provide religious instruction during non-religious mandatory training classes.”
My question is simply this, if these statements are true, then Chaplain Lawhorn should have never taken part in the training exercise at all, right? If it was non-religious training then, he was working outside of the purview of his stated duties.