Case of Fired Christian Col Bohannon Shows Limits of Military Diversity, Tolerance
UPDATE: A group of Republican Senators has sent a letter (PDF) to Secretary Wilson asking her to ‘restore justice’ for Col Bohannon — and, given his mistreatment due to his faith, has asked her to “clarify the [Air Force’s] position on religious liberty.” The signatories are Senators Ted Cruz, Roy Blunt, James Inhofe, John Kennedy, James Lankford, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Roger Wicker.
Henry Ford is said to have offered all of his customers a car in any color they wanted — so long as it was black.
As described by the First Liberty Institute, it seems the US Air Force supports all of its Airmen’s rights to exercise any religious belief they want — so long as it supports homosexuality.
As noted last month, Col Leland Bohannon was fired from his command and had his potential for promotion ended when he declined to personally sign an optional letter praising a same-sex marriage.
Mike Berry, a First Liberty lawyer representing Col Bohannon, said this runs against the very diversity the military claims it values:
This sends a clear message—if you do not have the politically correct viewpoint, you are not welcome in the military. The military is no longer a place of diversity and inclusion if you are a person who holds to a traditional belief on marriage.
Many people would assume the departure of President Obama — generally viewed as very socially liberal — and the arrival of President Trump — who has, thus far, been generally viewed as socially conservative in office — would have mitigated what the FRC describes as “religious hostility in the military.” However, besides the backlog in political appointees resulting in many “Obama holdovers,” the FRC notes it takes time (and leadership) to right such a large ship.
The FRC has collected more than 20,000 signatures in a petition to President Trump’s Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, to reverse Col Bohannon’s maltreatment.
Col Bohannon may yet prevail. The First Liberty appeal points out some pretty obvious procedural discrepancies that almost certainly require official correction. But even if Col Bohannon does survive, his story will likely be little different than that of Chaplain Wes Modder — who, after months of the Navy trying to kick him out, was exonerated, but then chose to retire.
By not correcting the wrong quickly, the damage has been done — not just to Col Bohannon’s career, but also to military religious freedom. The public — and, apparently accurate — perception is that an Air Force commander is required to affirm a same-sex union. Given that such an act runs counter to the religious faith of a vast majority of Airmen, military members, and even US citizens, the Air Force has alienated not only many of its own Airmen, but also many potential Airmen.
And in a supposed era of recruiting shortfalls, it seems shortsighted to reduce the “recruiting pool” over what seems to be an error that runs counter to basic Air Force polices — and even the US Constitution. Remember, AFI 1-1 says Airmen are supposed to [emphasis added]
“confidently practice [their] own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from [their] own.”
Col Bohannon’s case could create the perception that such “confidence” is only allowed to — and that such respect is only bestowed upon — those who hold certain “Air Force-approved” religious views.
And that would be a tragedy of constitutional proportions.