A decorated US Army chaplain who faced a court martial over accusations of discrimination against a lesbian couple has been cleared of all charges.
Major Scott Squires was investigated and faced dereliction of duty charges after he told a soldier he could not lead a marriage retreat that included a same-sex couple.
The chaplain had to pull out of the event when he learned of the same-sex couple and arranged for an alternative chaplain to take over, but his actions were deemed discriminatory.
Major Squires was unable to lead the event both because of his religious beliefs, and because he is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB).
NAMB policy prohibits endorsed chaplains from offering “any kind of relationship training or retreat” for a same sex couple, “on or off a military installation”.
The charges were brought by a US Army investigator, who said Major Squires was using the ‘shield’ of religious liberty as a ‘sword’, but the chaplain was cleared of all charges.
The chaplain’s attorney Mike Berry said he was grateful that the US Army had rejected the “baseless” charges.
“The United States military is no place for anti-religious hostility against its own military chaplains”, said Berry, adding that they “do not have to give up their First Amendment rights in order to serve their fellow soldiers.”
The case also attracted the attention of politicians.
Congressman Doug Collins said the case highlighted “how imperative it is that we protect freedom of conscience for every individual in the U.S. military – including the chaplains who minister to them”.