Army chaplain punished after Facebook post on transgender military ban appeals reprimand
A decorated U.S. Army chaplain is appealing actions taken against him that could end his career after he voiced support on his personal social media page for a military policy preventing trans-identified individuals from serving in the military.
Chaplain Maj. Andrew Calvert is contesting the reprimand from the U.S. Army after he commented on a Jan. 25 news article about the Biden administration’s intentions of dropping President Donald Trump’s ban on trans-identified men and women serving in the military.
Calvert was issued a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR) on April 22 after anonymous screenshots were sent to the 3rd Forces Assistance Brigade’s Facebook account of his Jan. 25 comments. An investigating officer from the brigade determined that he had violated a Defense Department directive and suspended him from his duties.
The legal nonprofit First Liberty Institute is representing the chaplain and insisted in a Wednesday letter to commanding officer Lt. Gen. Robert P. White that the chaplain did nothing wrong, particularly because his post included a disclaimer indicating that these were his personal opinions and not to be taken as representative of the U.S. Army or Department of Defense.
But Calvert’s attorney argues that the adverse actions taken against Calvert violated Defense Department regulations and the U.S. Constitution as it was a retaliation for expressing a religious viewpoint on a matter of public concern.
“It is wildly inappropriate and offensive for Colonel Trotter, Headquarters Commander for 3d SFAB, to state his personal opinion that this has ‘nothing to do with violating or infringing on [Chaplain Calvert’s] religious beliefs’ as the basis for issuing a GOMOR,” First Liberty Institute General Counsel Mike Berry wrote in the May 12 letter.
“Although Chaplain Calvert’s sincerely held religious beliefs might overlap with what some view as political issues, service members are permitted to express their opinions on such matters. As a reminder, Chaplain Calvert merely expressed his sincerely held religious belief that was, at the time he expressed it, wholly consistent with DoD policy.”
The letter argued that the action is duplicitous given how active duty service members marched in uniform, carrying gay pride and transgender flags in a 2019 parade to oppose the Trump-era prohibition.
“Clearly, if uniformed, active duty service members are permitted to express political opposition to their commander-in-chief’s policy, an active duty chaplain may express support for that same policy,” Berry asserted.
First Liberty requested that the reprimand be withdrawn and vowed to take the legal steps to defend Calvert’s rights if the reprimand is not lifted.
Calvert is a recipient of the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.
In the Facebook post in question, Calvert asked: “How is rejecting reality [biology] not evidence that a person is mentally unfit [ill], and thus making that person unqualified to serve."
“There is little difference in this than over those who believe and argue for a ‘flat earth,’ despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary," Calvert wrote in a Jan. 28 comment, according to Army Times.
“The motivation is different but the argument is the same. This person is a MedBoard for Mental Wellness waiting to happen. What a waste of military resources and funding!”
According to First Liberty Institute, the investigation into Calvert's online activities concluded that Calvert violated Army policy banning "online misconduct" for making “disparaging terms to discriminate against transgender persons.” In addition, the investigation found that he violated a Defense Department directive limiting political activity by active-duty troops.
The Army Times, which obtained a copy of the reprimand, reports that the investigating officer pointed to other Facebook comments posted by Calvert. However, it is not clear what he wrote in those posts.