Chaplain case provides example of Article 138 complaint

An Article 138 complaint provides any member of the armed forces the ability to file a complaint against a Commanding Officer.

A case involving a chaplain and a recommendation that he be "detached for cause" after soldiers complained about comments allegedly made during faith-based counseling sessions provides an example of how an Article 138 complaint can unfold. A recent report by The Blaze discussed the case, ultimately noting the Navy Personnel Command threw out the claims against the chaplain. The chaplain has since filed an Article 138 complaint against the Commanding Officer who made the recommendation.

More on Article 138 complaints

An Article 138 complaint is defined as a formal complaint against a Commanding Officer. This availability to file this complaint is open to any member of the armed forces who believes that he or she has been wronged by a Commanding Officer.

Before moving forward with an Article 138 complaint, the Commanding Officer must receive a request, in writing, to address the wrong. The Commanding Officer must act upon this request within a timely manner. A publication by the Navy states the Commanding Officer generally has 30 days to respond while one by the Army states the response is expected within 15 days.

The request should include the name and unit of the Commanding Officer in question, an explanation of the alleged wrong and the requested remedial action. If the Commanding Officer refuses the request, a formal Article 138 complaint can be filed. This formal complaint requires a variety of information, including the information stated in the request as well as the date the request was submitted. The member of the armed forces making the complaint must file within 90 days of the discovery of the alleged wrongdoing.

More on the case

In this case, the complaints against the chaplain were based on comments made about sexuality and faith based morals. In the report, the chaplain's attorney states in one instance the chaplain was asked by a young woman what the Bible said about the fact she was living and sleeping with her boyfriend. He allegedly replied that the Bible viewed such actions as shameful. When asked by a young gay sailor what his views on homosexuality were, the chaplain allegedly stated that homosexual orientation is not a sin, but the associated actions were — a response that his attorney states the chaplain's denomination, Assembly of God, asks him to provide.

Based on these and other similar complaints, six sailors approached their commanding officer and filed an Equal Opportunity discrimination complaint. This resulted in the chaplain receiving a "detachment for cause letter" stating the chaplain was not able to "function in the diverse and pluralistic environment." This was supported by a contention that the chaplain had discriminated against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds on multiple occasions. Ultimately, the dispute settled in the chaplain's favor. However, had it not, the chaplain could have lost more than just his job; he could have lost the benefit he had worked decades to earn.

In response to these allegations, the chaplain filed an Article 138 complaint. According to the attorney, the chaplain is hoping for a statement to be issued saying what the commanding officer did was "inappropriate".

Lessons from the case

This case provides an example of how a situation can unfold that could lead to an official Article 138 complaint. These complaints should be taken seriously. You have the right to consult with legal counsel, and doing so is often wise.