A U.S. Army chaplain could face disciplinary action after a lesbian service member accused him of discrimination for excluding her from a marriage workshop. An attorney for Chaplain Jerry Scott Squires calls the conclusions found by the miltary’s office of equal opportunity investigation “severely deficient” and has asked the commanding officer to strike the complaint and restore Squires’ untainted service record.
The woman, a sergeant, asked Squires if she could enroll in a Feb. 9 marriage workshop he planned to lead. The registration deadline had already passed, he told her, but added he could not facilitate the “Strong Bonds” workshop if it included same-sex couples. The tenets of his endorsing ministry, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, prohibited him from doing so. Squires later made arrangements for the sergeant to attend another Strong Bonds meeting, according to attorney Michael Berry with First Liberty.
But that didn’t suffice, and the woman filed an official complaint. Berry described the subsequent investigation as fraught with “factual discrepancies” and asked Col. William J. Rice to dismiss the complaint and its career-damaging implications.
“It is inconceivable that a military chaplain who merely explains that his/her ecclesiastical endorser places certain restrictions on what religious rites, ceremonies, and practices he/she may perform violates military [equal opportunity] policy,” Berry said, noting the investigation concluded the sergeant’s desire to attend a specific workshop superseded the chaplain’s “sincerely held religious beliefs, denominational tenets, and legal requirements.”
Squires’ case comes just two weeks after the successful appeal by an Air Force officer who faced a similar career-damaging investigation over a discrimination complaint. —B.P.