A number of prayer videos posted by US Army chaplains have been removed from Facebook following a series of complaints. The prayers, offered as a means of comfort during the coronavirus pandemic, were labelled by an atheist campaign group as being "illicit proselytizing" and not suitable for official military social media channels.
The videos in question featured chaplains Cpt. Amy Smith and Maj. Scott Ingram, who posted them to the Facebook page of the Army's 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Drum, N.Y.
As a result, a group called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), led by founder and president Mikey Weinstein, sent a cease and desist letter claiming that the content violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
"I personally spoke on the phone this morning to the senior leadership staff of [Maj. Gen.] Brian Mennes, the 10th’s Commanding General, as well as subordinate senior staff of [Col.] Matt Bresko, the Commander of the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade,” Weinstein said in a statement released on Monday.
“These senior Fort Drum staffers were professional and courteous and seemed to understand well the position of MRFF in advocating for our active duty Army clients under their command."
In one of the videos, Major Ingram referenced Isaiah 41 and encouraged people to put their trust in God during the coronavirus crisis. “Change is never easy, but together we can walk forward in supernatural strength in the confidence that we are not forsaken," he said.
Another video that MRFF singled out was of Chaplain Amy Smith, who was filmed showing viewers around the Fort Drum Spiritual Fitness Trail. "This trail is designed to be used as a prayer walk, to walk around all the different stations," Smith said in the video. "There are approximately nine different stations where you are invited to pray, to pray for the family, to pray for the sick, and to pray for our leaders."
She added: “I’m always amazed at how God is in tune with His nature and His creation and He is in tune with us. So the prayer walk helps us to get in tune with Him. It is a great way to connect with God.”
In his statement, Weinstein said that he'd "greatly prefer that the Army would have taken this action sua sponte (‘ON ITS OWN’) without having to cause MRFF to make these obviously valid demands to ensure church-state separation in the first place on behalf of aggrieved Army personnel who justly fear reprisal, retribution, revenge and retaliation for taking their grievances up the chain of command."