WASHINGTON—Congressman Doug Collins (r-gA.), an Air Force Reserve chaplain, is continuing his investigation into the case of Chaplain Joe Lawhorn, whose commander at Fort Benning, Georgia, issued him a Letter of Concern in 2014, after Lawhorn exercised sincerely held religious beliefs to counsel a fellow soldier suffering from depression.  

Colonel David G. Fivecoat, despite U.S. Army policy and prior letters from Rep. Collins and the Liberty Institute, has yet to withdraw his letter, which he wrote in response to a complaint about Lawhorn’s sharing of his Christian faith with a fellow troop.

Rep. Collins wrote today to Fort Benning’s Brigadier General John F. King, “My own service as a military chaplain taught me the importance of offering honest guidance…. The Letter of Concern runs contrary to the right to the free exercise of religion – a right that Army Chaplains are supposedly tasked with defending.”

In its “Strategic Guidance” for chaplains, the Army “call[s] upon every Chaplain… to be a religious leader and a Soldier.” Department of Defense guidelines state that the military will “accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs.”

According to other regulations, Lawhorn also shared secular materials with the troop in question, and Rep. Collins has asked for a prompt resolution to the violation of his rights, as well as duties. He asks that the non-permanent filing of concern be completely withdrawn from the chaplain’s file.

“Chaplain Lawhorn drew upon his personal experience and faith to offer potentially life-saving suggestions to colleagues in need,” says the Congressman, an Iraq War veteran, in his own letter. “I believe this [Letter of Concern] could have a chilling effect on the candid religious, spiritual and other secular advice chaplains wish to offer.”

* PDF Letter attached


Rep. Collins' Letter to Deputy Commander King (01/23/1511:50 AMET )
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