(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Another branch of the U.S. armed forces is being accused of discriminating against service personnel who express traditional religious viewpoints.
This time it’s the Air Force, although the Marine Corps and the Army also have been criticized numerous times by traditionalist groups for forbidding prominent personal displays of the Bible or Biblical verses, or for dissuading Army chaplains from expressing conservative faith views.
A public-interest legal foundation called First Liberty sent a “demand letter” to the Air Force on Wednesday, which threatened legal action if the Air Force will not rescind the punishment of a colonel disciplined for allegedly lying about making derogatory comments to a lower-ranking, homosexual service member.
Colonel Michael Madrid is an amply decorated veteran of 26 years who soon was due to be considered for a promotion to Brigadier General. He is a devout Christian with traditionalist views on marriage that he openly expresses. One of his underlings, who was gay, had been court-martialed for drug use and other serious offenses, and in the course of the court-martial (he was found guilty) he counter-alleged that Madrid had made the derogatory comments, in contradiction to Air Force policy.
Madrid denied the allegations, willingly submitted to an investigation, and was fully cleared, with the charges against him found to be “unsubstantiated.”
Last year – two years after the case had been closed and two weeks after Madrid had been promoted to full colonel – the commander at Madrid’s new base, Major General John McCoy, for some reason decided to read Madrid’s old case file. Without formally re-opening the investigation or giving Madrid a chance to respond, McCoy decided Madrid had lied to investigators about not having made the derogatory comments. Without new interviews or new evidence, McCoy issued an official “Letter of Admonishment” to Madrid’s records. The effect of the letter is to deny Madrid the chance for any further promotions.
First Liberty sent its demand letter, saying that the official Admonishment “deprive[s] Madrid of due process” in multiple ways, and further alleged that the whole original investigation violated Madrid’s “right to free exercise of his religious beliefs.”
In a press conference held Wednesday in San Antonio, Madrid said it is “incredibly intimidating to be in this situation,” with his career effectively squashed unless the Admonishment is rescinded.
“I feel like I’ve been singled out because of my faith,” Madrid told Breitbart News. “Now I’m afraid if I say anything about even being a Christian, I’ll step on a landmine that could blow up my career.
Liberty Headlines made an attempt via the media page of the Air Force’s web site to ask the Air Force for a response to First Liberty’s demand letter. The Air Force did not respond before this article went to press, and has not yet done so, but Liberty Headlines will update the story if and when the Air Force replies.