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Airmen say Air Force is punishing evangelical Christians

Evangelical Christian airmen at Lackland Air Force Base are facing severe threats and retribution for their religious beliefs and some personnel have been ordered to publicly express their position on gay marriage.

“There is an atmosphere of intimidation at Lackland Air Force Base,” said Steve Branson, the pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. “Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen. There is a culture of fear in the military and it’s gone to a new level with the issue of homosexuality.”

Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.

“The religious persecution is happening,” the pastor said. “It’s getting bigger every day. Gay and lesbian airmen can talk about their lifestyle, but the rest have to stay completely quiet about what they believe.”

One airman was told that even thinking that homosexuality is a sin is discriminatory.

Among those at the church meeting was Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk. The 19-year veteran was punished after he refused to tell his lesbian commander his position on gay marriage. I was the first reporter to tell his story.

Monk disagreed with his commander when she wanted to severely reprimand a new instructor who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality.

The senior master sergeant was relieved of his duties after he refused her order to disclose his personal opinion about gay marriage.

Monk, who had a spotless record, filed a religious discrimination complaint against the Air Force. When he showed up for a meeting about the complaint, he was accused of giving false statements to me – and was subsequently read his Miranda Rights.

Monk is now facing a possible court martial.

So far, Monk is the only airman willing to go on the record. Others are terrified that they will face similar repercussions. But that’s not stopping them from speaking off-the-record.

“All the guys who are active say they want to speak but they are still afraid because they see what happened to Phillip,” the pastor told me. “Guys who are good men are afraid to do anything because it will hurt them, cost them their career.”

One airman was told that even thinking that homosexuality is a sin is discriminatory.

“A commander told him, ‘Don’t you understand discrimination – that your thought process is discrimination?’” Pastor Branson said. “The commander actually pulled up the definition of discrimination on Wikipedia and read it to him in front of everyone so he would understand what it was.”

The parent of a 19-year-old Christian airman said their son was directed to disclose his religion during Basic Training.

“What’s your religion, little boy?” a master sergeant asked the young man. When he answered “Christian” he had to repeat Basic Training.

One member of the military was written up for having his Bible out – while a Muslim was allowed to publicly display a prayer rug.

A colonel told the pastor that officers are being ordered to publicly affirm and promote homosexuality.

“The colonel told me he hasn’t been asked to do so, but if it did, he would refuse the order,” the pastor said.

“They’re getting mirandized several times a month – but most of the accusations never stick,” Branson tells me. “Branson said he’s getting email and letters from military personnel across the country – telling him their stories of religious persecution – and asking for help.

Gen. Jerry Boykin (ret.) told me he’s not surprised to hear about the assault on religious liberty within the Armed Forces.

“It reinforces what we’ve been saying,” Boykin told me. “There is an orchestrated attack on Christians in the military and at this stage the Air Force is the worst.”

Pastor Branson told me he fears there may soon be a mass exodus of Christians from the military.
“The consensus at our meeting was that if things don’t change, good men will be leaving the military,” he said. “It will be a tragedy for our country and our military.”

As for Master Sgt. Monk – he’s facing what could be a long and difficult road – that could eventually lead to a court martial.

“They picked the wrong guy with Monk,” the pastor said. “This is one good, strong man. He’s willing to pay the price.”

A two-star general called the pastor and urged him to “keep stirring the stick.” But he also made a dire prediction.

“He said Monk will be a casualty of the war,” Branson said. “And the general feared the persecution is going to get worse.”

I’ve had a chance to talk at length with Master Sgt. Monk. He’s a soft-spoken man – an introvert, not a religious zealot. He’s a good-hearted person with a strong sense of right and wrong.

He told me that he was taking a stand because he wanted his sons to see “a man who stands upright and stands for integrity.”

The persecution of Master Sgt. Monk and the countless unnamed individuals at Lackland Air Force Base should serve as a warning to all Americans.

If the Obama administration’s Pentagon can take away their religious liberty – they can take away ours.

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."