A US Army chaplain who used Bible verses in a training session on suicide prevention has been reprimanded.
Captain Joseph Lawhorn, who has himself suffered from depression, gave out flyers with Bible verses and details of other resources at the session.
However one person complained and the chaplain has now been given a “letter of concern”, which the army describes as a ‘counselling tool’.
Look to God
Liberty Institute, an American religious liberty organisation, has taken on the case and says the Army’s action goes against the law.
Cpt Lawhorn spoke at a suicide training prevention session on 20 November this year, giving out a sheet with verses from the Bible which encouraged soldiers to look to God for help.
He pointed to the example of David crying out to God, and Jesus experiencing all temptation and weakness.
However, according to witnesses, he also said there were other legitimate ways to deal with depression.
Mike Berry, Senior Counsel for Liberty Institute, said: “With suicide rates soaring in the Army, Chaplain Lawhorn’s message was potentially lifesaving—and yet he has been punished for it.
“But the punishment is itself against the law. U.S. Army regulations allow chaplains to draw upon spiritual examples in formal suicide prevention efforts—indeed, they encourage the very use of spiritual examples Chaplain Lawhorn employed.”
The group also said that letters of support had been sent in, praising the chaplain.
Behaviour of concern
A representative from the US Army said: “A local letter of concern is not punishment. Rather, it is an administrative counseling tool, with no long-term consequences.”
The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers called for “swift action” against the chaplain.
It described the chaplain’s actions as a “wanton abuse” of military authority.