Airman Claiming Religious Discrimination Mirandized, May Face Court Martial
SMSgt Phillip Monk, an airman who claimed he lost his job due to his Christian beliefs, was mirandized by Air Force investigators over two weeks ago. According to his attorneys at the Liberty Institute:
During a meeting [two weeks ago], Air Force investigators read Liberty Institute’s client SMSgt Phillip Monk his Miranda rights, alleging that SMSgt Monk’s religious discrimination complaint was false. Monk, a devout Christian, believes the claims are a retaliatory act by his former commander, who relieved Monk of his duties and reassigned him after Monk could not agree with his commander’s position regarding same-sex marriage. In the military, making a false official statement is punishable by court-martial.
“I was stunned and immediately felt that this was a retaliation against me for coming forward with my religious discrimination complaint,” said Monk. The military prohibits retaliatory action against service members, when a complaint is filed against a commanding officer. The Air Force will decide as to whether or not to charge Monk with filing a false official statement.
“We are hopeful that the Air Force will do the right thing by clearing SMSgt Monk’s name and reputation, and supporting his and every Airman’s right to express, without fear of punishment, their religious convictions," said Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry, whose organization will continue to defend Monk.
Last month, Fox News reported that Monk, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was relieved of his duties when he responded to a question from his commanding officer Major Elisa Valenzuela, an open lesbian. According to the report, Valenzeula commanded an investigation of an Air Force instructor who made anti-gay remarks. Following that investigation, Monk told Fox, she asked for Monk's opinion regarding disciplinary action he thought should be taken against the instructor, who she said made anti-gay remarks. The instructor received a letter of counseling placed in his official file as punishment.
Following that incident, Monk says Valenzuela said to him, "Sgt. Monk, I need to know if you can, as my first sergeant, if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don’t agree with homosexual marriage.”
Monk says he refused to the question seeing the legal issues it placed him in.
A spokesperson for Lackland Air Force Base public affairs contended that Monk was not punished and that he was simply at the end of his assignment.