Christian Airman Relieved of Duty for Marriage Beliefs Now Granted Military Honors
Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk—the Evangelical Christian who was originally relieved of duty for his beliefs on marriage—is now receiving an award from the same Defense Department that was previously threatening him with a possible court martial.
Breitbart News’ Aug. 25, 2013 news report on Monk explained how when he returned from deployment to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, in Texas, he found he had a new commanding officer. This new commander, Maj. Elisa Valenzuela, was openly lesbian and reportedly referred to a particular base chaplain as a bigot because he taught the biblical Christian belief that homosexual acts are a sin.
Monk served in the 326th Training Squadron. As we reported, when Valenzuela wanted to severely punish a lower-ranking trainer who cited gay marriage as a socially-divisive matter that could lead to cultural decline in the same way the Roman Empire declined from within and sought Monk’s recommendation on how to respond, he instead counseled that Valenzuela should use this as an example to teach diversity and tolerance for opposing viewpoints. Valenzuela told Monk that they were not on the same page and that he had better change if he wanted to continue serving as the senior sergeant for that unit.
Then came the incident last summer, alleged in Monk’s official religious-discrimination complaint filed on Aug. 20, 2013. Valenzuela told Monk that support for gay marriage is Defense Department policy that all military members are required to support. She then said that those who do not support gay marriage are wrongfully discriminating against homosexuals and asked Monk if he agreed.
Valenzuela thereby placed Monk in a legal quandary. As an observant Christian, Monk adheres to the biblical teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman. He could either place himself in legal jeopardy or was required to compromise his sincerely-held Christian beliefs.
Monk responded that if it is true that military members are not allowed to express any disagreement with gay marriage, then he could not verbally respond with his personal religious beliefs because he feared he could suffer legal consequences for expressing those beliefs. The week following that exchange, he was relieved of duty and later told not to even return to the training facility.
A military investigator met with Monk and his lawyer from Liberty Institute, Mike Berry, informing Monk that he was being investigated for possibly violating Article 107 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This alleged violation was for publicly saying that he believes he is being discriminated against for his traditional Christian beliefs. Violating Article 107 is a crime under military law, for which Monk could have been court-martialed.
Instead of being criminally prosecuted, Liberty Institute announced today that on Feb. 12, 2014, Monk was granted military honors by the Air Force. After this nationally-televised controversy, the Air Force colonel in command of Monk’s larger unit is awarding Monk the Meritorious Service Medal, which is authorized by the president of the United States, for “outstanding service to the United States.”
The award’s citation recounts the many successes of Monk’s tenure with this Air Force unit and concludes, “The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Monk reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.” It also specifically praises Monk’s instrumental role in bringing about the largest sexual-assault court martial in Air Force Basic Training History. The award praises Monk as being “vigilant and mindful” in carrying out these duties.
Berry told Breitbart News: “This is a testament to Phillip Monk’s courage and conviction. I can think of few Airmen who have demonstrated the courage to stand on their principles the way SMSgt Monk has, to be ostracized for it—but ultimately to be exonerated and awarded for his achievement.”
This unexpected turn of events appears to be a victory for Monk and a likely indication that the adverse situation has been resolved. Berry concluded: “This is a noble gesture by the Air Force to recognize SMSgt Monk’s hard work and sacrifice… Because of his example, other service members should be encouraged to stand up for their religious beliefs.”
The full text of the citation can be read below:
Senior Master Sergeant Phillip T. Monk distinguished himself in the performance of outstanding service to the United States as First Sergeant, 326th Training Squadron, 737th Training Group, 37th Training Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. During this period, Sergeant Monk served 64 Military Training Instructors and facilitated the transformation of 9,000 raw civilian recruits into motivated, trained warrior Airmen of character. Vigilant and mindful of the health and welfare of the nearly 800 daily assigned recruits in training, he was instrumental in the management of 12 military trainer misconduct cases including the largest sexual assault court martial in Basic Military Training history. During his tenure, the 326th Training Squadron was the best among seven squadrons in Recruit Academic Standing for 2011 and went from last to first, earning the Group’s Top Instructor Compliance, Performance and Excellence in Drill and Ceremonies honors for 2012. Moreover, the unit received zero discrepancies and garnered an “Excellent” rating on the Air Education and Training Command’s 2012 Compliance Inspection. Finally, whiled deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility, he regulated 200 outside-the-wire personnel movements with zero incidents. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Monk reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.