Air Force Exonerates Col Leland Bohannon over Faith, Homosexuality
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has announced that Col Leland Bohannon was wrongly punished last October after he expressed religious objections to affirming homosexuality. Explaining the results of the Air Force Review Board, which had received Col Bohannon’s appeal, Secretary Wilson said (PDF) [emphasis added]
The Director concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same sex spouse of an Airman in his command.
The Air Force has a duty to treat people fairly and without discrimination… and met that duty by having a more senior officer sign the certificate.
That’s a clear win for religious liberty. The Air Force has proactively stated that it was wrong and Col Bohannon was right.
Col Bohannon’s advocate has been the First Liberty Institute.
This decision involved General officers and one upcoming GO in Col Bohannon himself. Every single GO will all know about this decision, and no other GO is going to want to cross this line — or the SECAF — again.
Further, because the Equal Opportunity office ultimately originated this wrong — and no EO office wants to get its General in trouble — this will undoubtedly roll throughout the entire US Air Force EO system (which, incidentally, influences the entire US military EO system via DEOMI). EO offices will be reminded of the priority the military places on the “sincerely held religious beliefs” of US troops — and the protections they are warranted.
Still, it remains a fact that Col Bohannon was fired and he was removed from consideration for promotion to General six months ago because of this. While the Air Force punishment was widely panned and the AF has said it will make sure his records are “corrected,” it is a long — and potentially insurmountable — row to hoe to actually undo the damage to Col Bohannon’s career. (Some critics of Col Bohannon even shrugged off this Air Force decision, saying it can’t revive Col Bohannon’s dead career.)
Michael “Mikey” Weinstein is undoubtedly seething. In an interview last year with a local news outlet in Albuquerque — where Col Bohannon was a commander at Kirtland and where Mikey Weinstein lives — Weinstein had made clear his hatred for Col Bohannon and his beliefs. Of Col Bohannon Weinstein said:
This particular Colonel is what we call a bigot. He is very prejudiced and raising his own views over the needs of the military…
This is another perfect example of someone claiming that “I’m being persecuted for being Christian.” And of course, it’s completely and totally outrageous.
Well, Mikey, the Air Force — at its highest level — disagrees with you. He’s not a bigot. He’s an Airman with protected religious rights, and he was wronged because action was taken against him because of his exercise of those rights.
Might want to get something for that burn, Mikey.
Meanwhile, US Air Force LtCol Victor (née Elisa) Valenzuela is trying to figure out how to backpedal from her mockery of Col Bohannon a few months ago. Valenzuela — who claims to be a Christian — outranked the last Christian Airman she went toe-to-toe with regarding faith and her then-preferred sexuality. But this Christian Airman is her superior — and has the Air Force on his side.
While there may be some momentum in favor of religious liberty — no General officer wants to be the next one caught in the crosshairs of the Secretary of the Air Force — it remains mind-boggling that it was an issue at all. US troops and the American public were assured that, when DADT was repealed, things like this would never happen. Not only did it happen, but an EO office validated it and a General officer took adverse action because of it. And that General officer — LtGen Anthony Rock — was (and is) the Inspector General…of the entire US Air Force. The IG is one of the offices to which Airmen are supposed to go when they’re wronged — and yet it is ultimately the office that wronged Col Bohannon. That’s why it took a review all the way to the top of the Air Force to undo this wrong.
Hopefully, the next Christian, Jew, Muslim or other US troop who has a religious objection like Col Bohannon’s isn’t similarly — and wrongly — treated. That said, if there is a “next,” it seems groups like the First Liberty Institute are standing by to help. Regrettably, they’re getting a lot of practice. Fortunately, they’re seeing victories like this one.
Update: As reported by a friend of the Bohannons.