Fox News culture warrior, Todd Starnes, is frequently inaccurate and usually hyperbolic. His anti-gay diatribes are routine. Reading Starnes’ profile at GLAAD, one has to wonder; just how crazy, homophobic and dishonest does someone have to be to get terminated by Fox? In addition to repeatedly claiming that churches will be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages, Starnes has claimed that military opposition to anti-gay hate speech is a sign of “the end of days.”
• August 14, 2013: “Airmen Punished for Objecting to Gay Marriage”
Did I mention hyperbole? Airmen is actually Airman Phillip Monk at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Starnes’ piece reads:
“I was relieved of my position because I don’t agree with my
commander’s position on gay marriage,” Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk
told Fox News. “We’ve been told that if you publicly say that
homosexuality is wrong, you are in violation of Air Force policy.”
The part about Air Force policy is true. Article 117 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits using “provoking or reproachful words or gestures” towards someone else in the military. In other words, you cannot go up to everyone with a name tag that reads “Epstein” and tell them that they are going to Hell. You cannot make racist statements to African-American personnel and, presumably, you must keep your homophobia to yourself. This isn’t about protecting minorities. Rather, this is about good order and discipline.
The Air Force states that Monk’s tour came to an end and there is absolutely no evidence that Monk was punished in any way whatsoever. Having said that, Monk did something that is unforgivable in the military culture. He went outside of his chain of command which most assuredly does not include Mr. Starnes. There will be an unofficial price to pay. In particular, there is no evidence that he aired his grievances to a base chaplain. He also obtained the services of the far right Liberty Institute. Did Strarnes refer Monk to LI or did LI bring this to the attention of Starnes?
• August 20, 2013: “Airman Punished for Opposing Gay Marriage Files Complaint”
An airman who was relieved of his duties after he told his commanding
officer that he could not support gay marriage has filed a formal
complaint with the military alleging he is the victim of religious
Senior Master Sgt. Monk, a 19-year veteran of the Air Force was
punished after he disagreed with his commander when she wanted to
severely reprimand an instructor who had expressed religious objections
Starnes repeats the lies that Monk was relieved of duties and punished for “opposing gay marriage.” Starnes does not coherently explain how Monk was asked to “support” marriage equality.
• September 30, 2013: “STARNES EXCLUSIVE: 80 Christian Airmen Say They’ve Been Subjected to Threats, Punishment”
Not exactly. This is, again, at Lackland and Starnes is getting his information from Pastor Steve Branson, of a San Antonio Baptist church.
Branson tells me at least 80 airmen attended a private meeting at the
church where he heard them voice their concerns about religious
hostilities at the Air Force base. It was a standing-room only crowd.
That is a very far cry from 80 airmen claiming that they were threatened and punished. Among the 80 was the aforementioned Sgt. Monk and he probably organized this gathering about 15 miles from the base. If 80 is “standing room only’ then this is a minuscule church. The quote from the pastor, by the way:
Gay commanders and officers are pushing their agenda on the airmen.
There is a culture of fear in the military and it’s gone to a new level
with the issue of homosexuality.
Starnes lacks the intellectual curiosity and integrity to ask the right questions. Indeed, Branson sounds like he is regurgitating Monk’s complaint. How are they pushing an agenda? What is that agenda? What is it that these airmen fear will happen to them and what do they have to do for it to happen?
This looks like Sgt. Monk is enjoying his 15 minutes as supplied by Mr. Starnes. Mr. Starnes is able to manipulate Monk into doing his bidding to create a story. In this case, a “Fox Exclusive.” Monk and Starnes are ringing bells at each other to enhance their public profiles. Because Fox has no standards for journalistic integrity, this will continue until Monk’s story becomes too tedious — even for the odious Mr. Starnes.
This is also a microcosm of Christian conservatism in our society in general. Starnes is relying on the “zero sum” approach that conservative Christians propose on a daily basis; Gays gaining rights must mean that Christians lose rights. Ergo, Christians are victims. “Poor us.”
They are pushing the notion that religious liberty requires that Christians have an exemption from valid laws. In society, this applies to refusing service in public accommodations. In this case it is the idea that military regulations and rules for military courtesy do not apply.
I have to wonder how this all would have played out were Starnes not a pot stirrer.