BLOGWho Suffers When Military Chaplains Can't Share Their Faith?

By Marissa Mayer Posted on: | December 22, 2014

In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that at least 22 veterans commit suicide every day

These numbers are not just shocking, they are incredibly sad.

Knowing this, if you were a military chaplain and were invited to speak at a suicide-prevention seminar, what message would you want to communicate to your audience?

For military chaplain, Captain Joe Lawhorn, the message he wanted to share was one of hope.

Lawhorn shared his personal experiences with depression and how his faith in God helped him through a dark period in his life. Unfortunately, the military decided to punish him for referencing the Bible during his talk at the University of North Georgia, after one of the attendees complained to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

“In this particular case, I had struggled myself personally with the issue at hand I was teaching," Captain Lawhorn told The Daily Signal. "It was my faith that helped me to persevere and remain resilient in the face of depression."

Lawhorn was given a Letter of Concern and warned not to advocate for a particular faith or religion in his professional capacity.

But Lawhorn is in the faith business. For the military to ask him to give a talk about a very real and often spiritual issue, but to leave faith out of it is absurd.  After all, the motto in the creed of the Chaplain Corps is “Bring God to soldiers and soldiers to God.”

Unfortunately, military chaplains are facing more and more challenges to their religious freedom and increased pressure to get out of the faith business altogether.

Recently, a former battalion commander in the British Army advocated for making all military chaplains secular because having spiritual chaplains is "insensitive."

What on earth is a secular chaplain anyway? The idea is not just scary, it's hurtful. Not only does it completely disrespect the job that these brave soldiers signed up for, but it shows complete disregard for the men and women of the Armed Forces who are truly suffering and are looking for someone or something to give them hope.

I imagine that someone in the military, even if he or she is not Christian, has lived through much tougher things than listening to a military chaplain share how he dealt with depression. The fact that his personal experience involved his faith would not even be news.

I think "freethinkers" can wrap their brains around what a military chaplain does—it's the same thing they've been doing for hundreds of years. In fact, I'd like to think that "freethinkers" can even value their brothers and sisters in the military enough to let them think and believe what they want and respect those beliefs.

Captain Lawhorn signed up to be a military chaplain and the man was just doing his job. He should not be silenced and punished for sharing his faith. But even more importantly, the active duty military and veterans should not be punished and lose valuable opportunities to hear the good news of the Gospel.

These men and women are at risk. Why wouldn't we do everything we can to help them? If Captain Lawhorn's testimony saved the life or simply gave a sense of hope to even just one person in attendance, isn't it worth it?

Please take a minute to sign this petition to respectfully request that the “Letter of Concern” in Chaplain Lawhorn’s file be immediately rescinded, and that Col. Fivecoat be reprimanded for violating protections afforded to all military personnel enacted into law in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Marissa Mayer

Senior Web Writer

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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