A 27-year veteran of the Utah Air National Guard said he was reprimanded after he wrote an email objecting to a gay wedding in the West Point chapel and was later told to prepare for retirement because his personal beliefs about homosexuality were not compatible with the military’s policies.
“The military is trying to make examples of people who have religious beliefs that homosexual conduct in the military is wrong,” said John Wells, an attorney representing TSgt. Layne Wilson. “The end game is to force conservative Christians out of the military.”
Last December Wilson wrote a letter to a person believed to be a chaplain at West Point. He stated his displeasure at news of a same-sex ceremony held in the Cadet Chapel.
“This is wrong on so many levels,” Wilson wrote. “If they wanted to get married in a hotel that is one thing. Our base chapels are a place of worship and this is a mockery to God and our military core values. I have proudly served 27 years and this is a slap in the face to us who have put our lives on the line for this country. I hope sir that you will take appropriate action so this does not happen again.”
Instead of responding to the private email, the Commandant of Cadets notified the Utah Air National Guard – leading to an accusation that he had brought disgrace and discredit upon the Air National Guard and his conduct was inconsistent with the United States Air Force.
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The Air National Guard determined that Wilson’s email “failed to render the proper respect to a commissioned officer.”
“You are hereby reprimanded,” read a letter from Lt. Col. Kevin Tobias. “As a noncommissioned officer you are expected to maintain a standard of professional and personal behavior that is above reproach. You have failed!”
A public affairs officer with the Utah Air National Guard told Fox News they could not comment on Layne’s case because of possible litigation.
Ironically, Wells pointed out, the Defense of Marriage Act was still the law of the land and TSgt. Layne was simply reporting “what he believed was a violation of the law.”
In addition to his reprimand, the Air National Guard terminated a six-year reenlistment contract. Instead, they gave Layne a one-year extension.
“Due to the fact that I expressed my views on homosexuality in uniform; Lt. Col. Tobias stated that I was no longer compatible with further military service,” Wilson wrote in a letter detailing the discrimination allegations.
Tobias confirmed Wilson’s allegation in a memorandum dated June 19, 2013 and obtained by Fox News.
“We talked about his feelings about DADT and how he doesn’t agree with it,” Tobias wrote. “I then told him that maybe this is a good time for him to move on because we’ve been ordered to not have an opinion about gays in the military and we need to treat them as we would treat anyone else in the service of our country.”
“I also reiterated that I respect his feelings but I’m not comfortable reenlisting him with his strong feelings about this matter,” he additionally wrote.
Col. Ronald Blunck concurred with Tobias – noting that “Your right to practice your religious beliefs does not excuse you from complying with directives, instructions and lawful orders.”
“Lt. Col. Tobias is correct in demanding that TSgt. Wilson refrain from expressing opinions contrary to Air Force guidance while in uniform,” Blunck wrote. “The Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was directed by law.”
Wilson also discussed concerns he had about a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” repeal briefing in 2011. He told his superior officers he found the briefing to be “very disturbing” and “conflicting with my moral rights of conscience.”
“My issue is not so much about homosexuals serving in the military, but rather that it is being forced upon as an acceptable lifestyle abandoning our traditional values,” he wrote.
He said the military has created an atmosphere where those who do not approve of homosexual conduct “must remain disapprovingly silent or face reprisal to our careers.”
“It is evident those who refuse to affirm homosexuality and openly oppose it are being severely punished,” he wrote.
Attorney Wells told Fox News he wants the military to rescind the reprimand and reinstate the original six-year reenlistment contract.
“This was an executed contract,” he said. “But they just went in, tore it up and issued a new one.”
Wells said his client’s only “crime” was registering his opinion that a gay marriage in a military chapel was a violation of the law that existed at that time.
“His actions were proper within the scope of the Uniform Code and the Manual for Courts-Martial,” Wells said. “While his interpretation of the law may or may not have been correct, his actions should not have given rise to the firestorm of reprisals that he has suffered.”
Wells said he believes the military is trying to send a message to other troops- and incidents like this are just the “tip of the iceberg.”
“They’re trying to make examples of people early on who have religious beliefs that homosexual conduct in the military is wrong,” he said. “When these people assert their First Amendment rights, they are getting slapped down and slapped down hard.”
Wells isn’t alone in his fears.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said there is a clear and present danger to religious liberty within the military.
“Christians who choose to live out their faith find themselves incompatible with the secular view of this administration,” said Perkins. “We’re establishing a beach head for religious liberty and the evidence points to a very deliberate attack.”
Representatives of 14 groups concerned about religious liberty joined Reps. John Fleming R-La., Jim Bridenstine R-Okla., and Louie Gohmert R-Tex. on Capitol Hill to urge support for Fleming’s military religious freedom amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
The amendment protects the rights of servicemembers to not only hold religious beliefs but to act on them and speak about them. Fleming’s amendment has bipartisan support but the Obama Administration issued a statement “strongly objecting” to the legislation.
The amendment comes as more than 170,000 Americans signed petitions calling for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect the religious liberties of military personnel through policies that guarantee those liberties.
“We want to make this the first key battle to restore religious liberty back to the American people,” Fleming told Fox News. “It sets the tone for a broader war to fight back against this government that is infringing on our religious liberty.”
Perkins and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, the FRC’s executive vice president, released a nine-page document detailing anti-religious behavior in the military.
“Unfortunately, pressures to impose a secular, anti-religious culture on our nation’s military services have intensified tremendously during the Obama Administration,” the FRC report states.
“We will stand with servicemembers who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights of religious liberty,” Boykin said. ‘We must do all we can to ensure that our servicemembers have the right to practice the very freedoms that they risk their lives to defend.”
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