The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a member of the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition (Coalition), was signatory to a letter addressed to Secretary of the Army, John McHugh. This letter, made public earlier this week (December 17th) defends the actions of Captain (CPT) Joseph Lawhorn, a Chaplain with the 5th Ranger Training Battalion. Chaplain Lawhorn, was issued a Letter of Concern because he referenced scripture while presenting a mandatory suicide awareness and prevention briefing in which he described his own personal struggles with depression.


CPT Lawhorn earned his Ranger tab in 1999, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, and has served as the Chaplain for 5th Ranger Training Battalion since December 2012.

An alarming aspect of this case is the fact that Chaplain Lawhorn’s superior, Colonel David G. Fivecoat, issued the Letter of Concern on his own initiative based on an article in the Huffington Post. No soldier attending Chaplain Lawhorn’s presentation made a formal complaint, nor was the Chaplain ever given the opportunity to defend his actions before the Letter of Concern was issued.

The Coalition’s letter requests that the Letter of Concern be withdrawn as Colonel Fivecoat  “misjudged the law and disciplined Chaplain Lawhorn without justification.”  Chaplain Lawhorn, a senior captain who is eligible for promotion to major, could be negatively affected by the Letter of Concern.

The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition was formed to defend the religious rights of members of our Armed Forces after a number of events occurred within the US Armed Forces that raised significant concerns about the status of the religious liberties so greatly prized by all Americans.