Military main fights punishment for anti-transgender social media posts

A prominent right-wing advocate group supports an Army chaplain in Fort Hood, Texas when he appeals an official reprimand received for a social media post denouncing transgender troops.

Chaplain Maj. Andrew Calvert was investigated in January after commenting on an article about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s support for President Joe Biden ending a ban on transgender people.

“How can the rejection of reality (biology) fail to prove that a person is mentally incapable (sick) and thus make that person unqualified for the service,” wrote Calvert in a January 28 comment under the story on the Facebook Army Times page. “There is little difference from those who believe and argue for a ‘flat earth’ despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

“The motivation is different,” Calvert continued, “but the argument is the same. That person is a Mental Wellbeing MedBoard waiting to be passed. What a waste of military resources and funds! “

The Facebook post and subsequent army investigation by Calvert’s unit – 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade – made headlines across the country after the Army Times first reported the investigation.

An Army Regulation 15-6 investigation found that Calvert violated Army’s policies on discrimination and prohibitions against online misconduct, as well as a Department of Defense policy regulating political speech by troops on active duty. This resulted in a call from attorney Michael Berry of the First Liberty Institute, who supports Calvert.

The Army investigator recommended that Calvert receive a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand for his conduct on social media, which the commander of the III. Corps, Lieutenant General Robert White, signed on April 22nd.

Army Chaplain Andrew Calvert, then a captain.  (US Army Chaplain Center and school picture).

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The Army Times received a copy of the GOMOR which is still pending appeal. White has not yet decided whether it will be permanently included in Calvert’s military report.

“You are hereby reprimanded for violating the policy of military equality of opportunity and the policy of the Department of Defense with regard to political activities,” White said in GOMOR. “Your actions raise serious doubts about your character and your future as leader of the army.”

The post and investigation

Berry’s letter, written on Wednesday, prompts White to reconsider the reference.

“Chaplain Calvert expressed support for DOD policies at the time, consistent with his sincere religious beliefs and the teachings of his denomination,” Berry said in an email to the Army Times. “It is always a religious exercise that is protected by the constitution and federal law.”

Berry argued in the appeal letter and an accompanying counter-memorandum that Calvert merely expressed his “sincere religious beliefs” as a religious leader. Berry also pointed out that Calvert had a disclaimer on his Facebook profile stating that all posts only reflected the chaplain’s personal views.

So Andrew Calvert is a chaplain on active duty at @ 3rdSFAB and equates trans troops with flat earthers.

He can’t be trusted to support soldiers for another minute @SecArmy #TransBanRepeal pic.twitter.com/OwDqKFPerf

– Naveed Shah @ (@ArmyofNaveed) January 26, 2021

However, in deciding to recommend punishment, the investigator also referred to other Facebook posts that Calvert had made, although it was not immediately clear which of those posts were or what they contained.

The Army Times failed to see the investigation report and First Liberty refused to divulge it immediately, citing the need to edit personal information from the document.

Another social media post was mentioned by name in the appeal letter: “11 reasons Christians should vote for Trump.”

Berry argued, “As a Christian chaplain, Chaplain Calvert is allowed to speak publicly on a matter of public concern to Christians. And the Constitution, federal law, and DoD regulations prohibit the Army from discriminating against him for doing so. “

The appeal letter also argued that the army had applied false legal standards to determine that Calvert was violating regulations.

Colonel Myles B. Caggins III, Senior Speaker of the III. Corps said the Army’s 15-6 investigation was launched after a complaint was filed with the inspector general’s office.

“Calvert has been given a full process and an opportunity to bring matters to the investigator,” Caggins said in a statement emailed. “Calvert’s orders after seeing the results of the investigation and all of them [Calvert]has taken appropriate administrative measures. “

Matter of opinion

The high-profile appeal comes amid a spate of difficult cases as the military seeks to push the limits of social media and political speech for service members.

Africa, a senior sergeant in the US Army’s Southern European Task Force in Africa, faces an investigation by a commanding officer after he published an “old school rant” disparaging women in ponytails in uniform.

Children play with a US soldier's hair during a mission in Afghanistan.  (Sgt.Canaan Radcliffe / Army)

A Colorado National Guard officer is also currently suing his chain of command after receiving a permanent GOMOR for participating in protests against Black Lives Matter and posting articles of opinion about his experience. The case is currently awaiting a government response in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

And in October, the army confirmed that it was investigating a battalion commander for a number of political posts he had made on Facebook while serving in the Middle East. Two of his soldiers were previously fined for making inappropriate TikTok political video while on duty.

Howard Altman, Managing Editor of the Military Times, contributed to the coverage.

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