WASHINGTON, D.C.,(LifeSiteNews) — Leading U.S. senators have weighed in on the Col. Leland Bohannon controversy, condemning his treatment on religious liberty grounds and demanding an investigation into his case so that justice is “restored.”
Bohannon was the commander of the Air Force Inspection Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. A highly decorated officer and veteran of two wars, he was stripped of his command just before being promoted to Brigadier General and his elevation was cancelled because he didn’t sign a document endorsing same-sex “marriage.”
“Col. Bohannon has suffered severely on account of the Equal Opportunity investigator’s mishandling of his religious liberty rights,” the letter stated. “The Air Force owes it to him to see that justice is restored, along with his good name.”
“Clarify the branch’s position on religious liberty,” the letter asked Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. The senators further ask Wilson to “instruct the Air Force to issue formal guidance and provide adequate training to commanders so that they know how to properly and respectfully address the religious liberty rights of their subordinates.”
The letter called for an investigation into “the proceedings surrounding Col. Bohannon’s request for religious accommodation.” It concludes by asking that the original Equal Opportunity complaint against Bohannon be “reversed and any unfavorable note in Col. Bohannon’s service record removed.”
When a homosexual Master Sergeant with a male “spouse” retired, Bohannon’s religious convictions prohibited him from signing the certificate of appreciation to the “spouse.” He asked the Staff Judge Advocate and his chaplain what he should do, and filed for a religious accommodation.
No accommodation came. Eventually, a higher ranking officer signed the certificate. But the Master Sergeant filed a civil rights complaint against Bohannon.
An Equal Opportunity investigator decided Bohannon discriminated against the gay Master Sergeant. Bohannon lost his job, his income, and his career.
The senators’ letter quotes Wilson in her confirmation hearing saying “‘Air Force commanders have a responsibility to ensure that the spiritual needs of all Airmen are met,’“ and the senators urge, “That time is now.”
The senators’ letter also points out that in Bohannon’s case the Air Force has shown that the religious freedom of soldiers is not respected by commanders.
“This sends a clear message — if you do not have the politically correct viewpoint, you are not welcome in the military,” First Liberty’s Mike Berry, who is legally representing Bohannon, noted. Berry charged that on the one hand the U.S. military says it values diversity while on the other hand it punishes religious objection.
“The military is no longer a place of diversity and inclusion if you are a person who holds to a traditional belief on marriage,” Berry concluded.
God and Country opined, “How the Air Force responds to Congress and to Col. Bohannon will indelibly mark its institutional treatment of military religious freedom.”
Air Force policy (AFI 1-1) states that all soldiers are to “confidently practice (their) own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from (their) own.”
God and Country recalled official military policy. “The Department of Defense explicitly — and repeatedly — said no one would have to change their views on homosexuality nor violate their religious beliefs merely because homosexuals were allowed to serve,” the military watchdog blogged.
Bohannon’s record shows that he works well with those whose lifestyle differs from his own.
Now-Brigadier General Kristin Goodwin, a lesbian, served for some time as Bohannon’s superior. She rated him highly.
“I can’t say enough about Bo,” Goodwin wrote. “I see him as a leader, a father and a husband, going out every single day and trying to make a difference in the world. Not only does he make that difference, he does it with grace, style, and even temperament.”
“It’s really been an honor having him here, and I think we’ve all benefited from his presence,” Goodwin continued in her evaluation. “He has such a compassionate heart and has touched so many lives. … He’s made me a better leader.”
The Family Research Council started an online petition in defense of Bohannon. More than 24,000 people have signed the petition.
The signatories include Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Kennedy of Louisiana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.