Army chaplains' prayer videos during coronavirus removed from Facebook after complaints

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Several military chaplain videos offering prayer during the coronavirus pandemic have been removed from Facebook after a group complained they amounted to "illicit proselytizing" of Christianity.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRRF) watchdog group is celebrating.

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Four recent videos involving chaplains Cpt. Amy Smith and Maj. Scott Ingram posted on the Facebook page of the Army's 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Drum, N.Y., were taken down after MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein sent a demand letter claiming they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Cpt. Amy Smith is the chaplain of the Army's 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Drum, New York.

Cpt. Amy Smith is the chaplain of the Army's 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Drum, New York. (Military Religious Freedom Foundation)

"These videos belong only on a chapel page, not on a base’s or unit’s main page," MRFF senior research director Chris Rodda wrote in an op-ed for the Daily Kos, adding the group "has been seeing an uptick in a particular type of complaint — overt proselyting videos on official military Facebook pages."

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The alleged violations include Smith discussing the Fort Drum Spiritual Fitness Trail in a video that was posted April 17, saying, "You are invited to pray, to pray for the family, to pray for the sick, and to pray for our leaders." In another video, Smith encouraged people to visit the Fort Drum Labyrinth as a great place to hear God's voice.

Addressing the coronavirus pandemic on April 2, Ingram said, "God encourages us not to be dismayed by what we see around us, things we cannot control. We can, however, with the best intel in this moment, place our trust in him, walk forward in his strength, and treat others with kindness."

Maj. Scott Ingram is the chaplain of the Army's 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Drum, New York.

Maj. Scott Ingram is the chaplain of the Army's 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Drum, New York. (Military Religious Freedom Foundation)

Weinstein told The Christian Post his group had "to make these obviously valid demands to ensure church-state separation...on behalf of aggrieved Army personnel who justly fear reprisal, retribution, revenge, and retaliation for taking their grievances up the chain of command."

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Mike Berry, a lawyer for the First Liberty Institute, said he was shocked to find out the news and questioned why MRFF is focused on this issue.

"At a time when our nation is hurting and many feel hopeless, why on earth would Mikey Weinstein attack prayer?" Berry told Fox News. "America has the strongest military in history, but our brave service members are not immune to the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked."

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He added, "I cannot believe the legendary U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division raised the white flag of surrender to an anti-religious freedom zealot. Every president, from Washington to Trump, has publicly prayed for our military. If the commander in chief can pray, then our soldiers can, too."