Is the Air Force waging a war on Christianity? Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, a 19-year veteran of the Air Force and an evangelical Christian, says he was relieved of his duties after disagreeing with his openly gay commander who wanted to severely punish an instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality, Todd Starnes reported at Fox News Wednesday.
"I was relieved of my position because I don’t agree with my commander’s position on gay marriage,” he told Fox News. “We’ve been told that if you publicly say that homosexuality is wrong, you are in violation of Air Force policy.”
A Lackland Air Force Base public affairs spokesman, however, said that while there was a disagreement, Sgt. Monk was not punished, and was simply at the end of his assignment.
“They did have a disagreement, but supposedly, they agreed to disagree,” the spokesperson said. “But the wing commander said there was no punishment."
According to Monk, the disagreement took place when he was asked to advise his commander on a disciplinary matter involving an instructor accused of making comments objecting to gay marriage.
After an investigation, Monk determined the instructor meant no harm when he allegedly compared the United States to the fall of the Roman Empire.
“He said in spite of our differences, we can’t let that happen to the United States,” Monk said. “He then used homosexual marriage as an example – saying that he didn’t believe in it – but it doesn’t matter because he was going to train them the same way.”
But that apparently didn't sit well with the commander who wanted to severely punish the instructor.
“Her very first reaction was to say, ‘we need to lop off the head of this guy,’” Monk recalled. “The commander took the position that his speech was discrimination.”
Monk said he doesn't believe someone having an opinion for or against homosexuality is discriminatory and suggested using the incident as a teachable moment.
But the commander apparently decided that if he didn't agree with her, he would have to go.
"I’m being chastised about what’s going on,” Monk said. “I’m told that members of the Air Force don’t have freedom of speech. They don’t have the right to say anything that goes against Air Force policy."
"The instructor was eventually punished by having a letter of counseling placed in his official file," Starnes added.
Monk said he was placed in a sticky predicament when the commander allegedly ordered him to answer a question about whether people who object to gay marriage are guilty of discrimination.
“She said, ‘Sgt. Monk, I need to know if you can, as my first sergeant, if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don’t agree with homosexual marriage,’” he said. “I refused to answer the question.”
Monk explained he would have faced legal problems if he answered the question honestly.
“And as a matter of conscience I could not answer the question the way the commander wanted me to,” he added.
Monk said he felt it would be best if he took leave and the commander agreed.
“I was essentially fired for not validating my commander’s position on having an opinion about homosexual marriage,” he said.
Starnes said the Liberty Institute is representing Monk in the event the Air Force retaliates.
“Are we going to have a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy for Christians so we don’t get harassed for our beliefs?” attorney Hiram Sasser asked. “Here’s a guy who wants to have his religious liberty and serve in the military. He shouldn’t have to believe in gay marriage in order to serve.”
Monk's case is not an isolated incident.
TSgt. Layne Wilson, a 27-year veteran of the Utah Air National Guard who complained about a gay wedding ceremony at West Point last year, was reprimanded and had his six-year enlistment reduced to a one-year extension.
In June, news broke of a Christian soldier with 25 years of service who said he was ordered not to read books by conservative authors.
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers also told Fox News he is reportedly facing retribution for having anti-Obama stickers on his car and serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party. Chick-fil-A is the fast food chain under fire over positions held by members of its senior management, who openly oppose gay marriage and espouse conservative Christianity.
MSgt. Sommers has a sterling record with the Army band, has received the Army Commendation Medal and was a soloist at the funeral of former First Lady Betty Ford.
In May 2012, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., told Fox News that Christians in uniform — including chaplains — are coming under fire for their religious beliefs.
“There is a war on religious belief in the military,” he said.
Monk believes that Christians are trading places with homosexuals and are being forced into silence.
“Christians have to go into the closet,” he told Fox News. “We are being robbed of our dignity and respect. We can’t be who we are.”
Meanwhile, Monk says he's taking a stand for his three teenage boys.
“Every night after dinner we read the Bible together,” he told Starnes. “I tell the boys we’ve got a lot of stuff going on in this world and we need people to stand up. My boys know what I’m going through. They are looking at me – wanting to know how I’m going to handle this.”
Regardless of what happens, Monk said his family will maintain their ethos, remaining "strong in mind" and "strong in soul."
He also wants his sons to see “a man who stand upright and stands for integrity.”
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