EXCLUSIVE: First Liberty Institute Seeks Justice for Air Force Colonel Targeted for His Faith

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First Liberty Institute, a national law firm committed to protecting religious liberty, is taking up the case of Air Force Col. Michael Madrid. He has been targeted by his commanding officer for reprimand involving a closed investigation that cleared the colonel of false claims by a court-marshaled soldier that Madrid had made disparaging remarks about his homosexuality.

Two years after the case was closed and Madrid had continued his exemplary military career, including the promotion to colonel, he was placed under a new commander, Maj. Gen. John E. McCoy. McCoy accessed the report and without any new evidence decided that Madrid was guilty and issued a letter of reprimand —  crippling, if not ending, his chance for future promotions.

On Wednesday, the institute sent a demand letter to the U.S. Air Force stating that Madrid had been denied due process and that the Letter of Admonishment should be rescinded. If not, the letter said the institute is prepared to take legal action.

“Col. Madrid submitted to an extensive military investigation and the Air Force cleared him,” Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for the First Liberty, said. “Major General McCoy has no right to ignore the rule of law and arbitrarily decide, more than two years later and without any new evidence, that he can punish Col. Madrid.”

Berry said that McCoy never provided reasons for sending the letter, but that this is not the first case of what seems like institutional hostility toward military personnel who openly express their religious beliefs.

“At First Liberty Institute, we’ve seen multiple cases in which military officials have refused to tolerate service members’ traditional religious beliefs,” Berry said. “That shouldn’t happen to anyone.”

“Col. Madrid doesn’t hide the fact that he is a devout Christian,” Berry said. “We are concerned that Major Gen. McCoy judged and punished Madrid – a decorated Air Force officer – because he became aware of Col. Madrid’s traditional religious views. If so, that not only harms the military, but it is illegal.”

“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.

“I hate feeling like I have to constantly look over my shoulder to see if someone is coming after me because of what I believe,” Madrid said. “We have many good service members who are people of faith and they shouldn’t have to live in fear of being punished for what they believe.

“I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else,” Madrid said. “I just want to resolve this situation and have the letter removed from my record so I can continue to serve our nation with honor.”

The Background of the Case:

In August 2012, Madrid was transferred to Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. Soon after, a young Airman arrived on base who was struggling with his medical career. Col. Madrid worked to support and mentor the young man.

In 2013, the Airman was charged with multiple criminal offenses, including illegally bringing a loaded weapon onto the Air Force base, prescribing narcotics illegally, and performing duties while under the influence of narcotics. He was soon court-martialed and found guilty of the charges.

Despite mentoring the young Airman, Madrid supported the court-martial because the Airman committed such serious crimes. During his court-martial, the Airman, who is gay, filed a complaint alleging that Madrid had made derogatory comments about homosexuality.

Madrid, whose has never hidden his traditional Christian beliefs about marriage as the union of one man and one woman, denied the accusations, but submitted to a thorough Air Force investigation.

Based on records, interviews, and fact-finding, the Air Force found the allegations “unsubstantiated” and closed the investigation in 2014.

“Religious intolerance and discrimination against anyone in the military is inexcusable,” Berry said. “We ask the Air Force to take immediate action to hold Major General McCoy accountable and to provide justice and due process for Col. Madrid.”


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