Army won't punish chaplain threatened with reprimand for Facebook post on transgender military ban

A U.S. Army chaplain leads soldiers in prayer while on overseas deployment. | AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY

A U.S. Army chaplain who faced potential punishment for criticizing a possible end to a ban on openly trans-identified individuals serving in the military on social media will not face a formal reprimand.

The First Liberty Institute, which represents Chaplain Maj. Andrew Calvert, announced Thursday that the U.S. Army will not issue a potentially career-ending formal reprimand against the chaplain.

Calvert recently contested a reprimand he received after posting from his Facebook page his opposition to the Biden administration's intention of dropping a Trump-era ban on trans-identified troops serving in the armed forces.

The Army issued Calvert a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand on April 22 after screenshots were sent to the 3rd Forces Assistance Brigade’s Facebook account of Calvert's Jan. 25 comment on a news article reporting on the plan to reverse the transgender military ban. An investigator determined that the chaplain had violated a Defense Department directive and suspended him from his duties. 

But according to First Liberty, Calvert will have his record cleared and again has the possibility for future promotions and assignments.

“We’re very happy for Chaplain Calvert and we commend the Army for making the right decision,” First Liberty General Counsel Mike Berry said in a statement. “No service member should ever be punished because of their religious beliefs.”

In his Jan. 25 post, Calvert expressed his support for the Trump-era ban, asking how “rejecting reality” is “not evidence that a person is mentally unfit,” and as a result, “unqualified to serve.”  

An unknown party took screenshots of Calvert’s comments.

In May, Calvert filed an appeal to the reprimand, getting support from multiple entities, including the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.

“The right to ‘freedom of conscience' is the most sacred belief held by all Americans and proponents of a free society, and that is why it is our first constitutional right,” Alliance Executive Director Derek Jones said in a statement shared with The Christian Post in May.

“Chaplain Calvert’s sincerely held beliefs are protected by the First Amendment and our federal courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of First Amendment protection for religious expression such as Chaplain Calvert’s.”

Critics argued that the chaplain’s remarks on trans-identified service members and earlier comments criticizing progressive Christians are outside of First Amendment protections.

His critics include the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state.

“… the U.S. Supreme Court has held for nearly half a century that ‘speech’ such as Calvert’s deliberate and hateful calumnies against transgenders and Progressive Christians, are NOT protected under the U.S. Constitution as he is a member of the American armed forces,” stated MRFF's Mikey Weinstein, as reported by DailyKos.

“The Army must timely, publicly and aggressively investigate and punish this wretched, Old School bigot-imbecile in order to make an example of him and make it perfectly clear that such seething, divisive hatred will NEVER be tolerated in our nation’s military."  

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