- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2021

An Army chaplain has appealed an official reprimand that his attorney claims could end a 16-year career because he opposed proposed changes to Defense Department rules on transgender troops.

Maj. Andrew Calvert, who earned a Bronze Star and three Meritorious Service Medals, runs the risk of being passed over for future promotion because of the rebuke, known as a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand or GOMOR in military parlance, attorney Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute asserted.

The major is currently a chaplain with the Army’s 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade based at Fort Hood, Texas.

If Maj. Calvert is bypassed for promotion twice, “you’re processed for separation from military service,” Mr. Berry said in a telephone interview, referring to a DoD policy once known as “up or out.”

Having a GOMOR in one’s personnel file makes it “highly unlikely” that the chaplain “will ever receive a promotion” in the future, he said.

Maj. Calvert’s transgression involves comments he made Jan. 25 on a Facebook page for the Army Times newspaper, a commercial publication independent of the Defense Department.

The newspaper had reported on support by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for President Biden’s reversal of a Trump-era ban on transgender persons serving in the military.

The Army Times quoted Maj. Calvert as writing, “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.”

Mr. Berry said Maj. Calvert made the comment from his personal Facebook account, which carries a disclaimer that the chaplain is not speaking for the military there.

An Army Regulation 15-6 administrative investigation report concluded Maj. Calvert was guilty of discrimination, online misconduct, and violating Defense Department rules regulating political speech.

Mr. Berry said that while the investigation “was not necessarily retaliation” for the Facebook post, the Army “is violating [Maj. Calvert’s] rights under the Constitution, under federal law, and under DoD regulations.”

The lawyer said “servicemembers are permitted to comment on matters publicly, including on social media,” adding that Maj. Calvert was supporting what was then Defense Department policy “regardless of what might be changed in the future.”

Writing to Lt. Gen. Robert P. White, the III Corps commanding general who signed the reprimand, Mr. Berry noted that in 2019 uniformed servicemembers marched in a San Diego parade protesting the Trump-era ban.

“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,” Mr. Berry wrote.

Maj. Calvert’s chaplaincy is endorsed by the Conservative Baptist Association of America, which sponsors 90 chaplains across all military branches, according to the Rev. Randy Brandt, head of chaplaincy for the group.

Mr. Brandt referred all questions about Maj. Calvert to the major’s attorney.

A spokesman at Fort Hood’s press center did not immediately respond to written questions from The Washington Times.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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