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Chaplain written up for citing his faith to combat suicide in the ranks

Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was given a “letter of concern” from a superior at Fort Benning for explaining to the class about how his Christian faith helped him through his depression.

U.S. soldiers at Easter sunrise service at Camp Liberty in Iraq, in 2009. / Marko Drobnjakovic / AP

U.S. soldiers at Easter sunrise service at Camp Liberty in Iraq, in 2009. / Marko Drobnjakovic / AP

Col.l David G. Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, delivered the punishment: … “You provided a two-sided handout that listed Army resources on one side and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side,” said the letter, courtesy the Army Times. …

The letter, which Fivecoat said would be placed in Lawhorn’s personnel file for at least three years or until Fivecoat leaves the command, also stated that Lawhorn is “entrusted to care for the emotional wellbeing of all soldiers in the battalion.”

“You, above all others, must be cognizant of the various beliefs held by diverse soldiers,” continued the letter of concern. “During mandatory training briefings, it is imperative you are careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”

Regarding what rights Lawhorn had to express his Christian faith, [Mike Berry, director of Military Affairs at the Liberty Institute said that] “The Army also recognizes that suicide is a growing problem within its ranks, and it identified spiritual fitness as a key component to combatting soldier mental illness and suicide. . . . In short, he should have been commended, not condemned.”


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