General William G. "Jerry" Boykin
General William G. “Jerry” Boykin

I have about had it with Christians thinking that human decency translates to their approval of our marriages. There is a certain arrogance associated with believing that their supposed approval is even relevant. Their delusions certainly do not create an excuse for discrimination.

It is a lesson that Colonel Leland B.H. Bohannon has learned the hard way. The colonel, commander of the Air Force Inspection
Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, has been suspended and a
promotion to brigadier general has been derailed. This is because he was disrespectful to a retiring master sergeant
(E-7). The senior NCO is gay and married.

It is military custom for the commander to send a thank you note to a
retiring person’s spouse. This supposedly conflicted with Bohannon’s Christian
beliefs. A general signed the note but that is not the point. It was just a note, a common courtesy and the retiree is a senior-level NCO. What is the big fucking deal?

Bohannon got himself a lawyer from Kelly Shackleford’s insane First Liberty Institute. In this case,
Bohannon is represented by Michael Berry who claims to be an expert in
religious liberty in the military.

General Jerry Boykin knows a thing or two about being a Christian supremacist in the military. As SPLC explains:

In 2003, President Bush publicly distanced himself from Boykin when it was revealed that he had made anti-Islamic statements and cast the “War on Terror” as a religious conflict while giving speeches at churches in full dress uniform, a violation of regulations.

Now General Jerry has a petition for Colonel Bohannon which, he knows perfectly well, will have no effect on the review boards. However, the petition is for Secretary Heather Wilson. While, in Congress, she typically voted along party lines she doesn’t seem to be overly Christian. I suspect that she will trust the process. At least I hope so. The petition reads:

Secretary Wilson,

In addition to correcting Air Force policy to protect religious freedom in this context to ensure this does not happen to anyone else, we respectfully request that you reverse the complaint against Colonel Bohannon and remove any unfavorable materials related to this complaint from his record.

Discrimination dishonestly framed as religious freedom. What would happen if one of these Christian nut-jobs decided that he did not like some Christian’s marriage to a Jew? Although Mike Weinstein would have a shit fit, I fail to see the difference between anti-gay discrimination and anti-Semitism. According to Boykin:

… his superior suspended Colonel Bohannon, withheld his decoration, and submitted a poor performance appraisal to the Air Force Brigadier General promotion board—the rank for which Colonel Bohannon is eligible—recommending that he not be promoted.

Not only is all of this a big waste of time for everyone involved, it is clearly unlawful and unconstitutional. The Equal Opportunity investigator completely failed to understand the nature of how religious accommodations work. Moreover, religious freedom law and military policy demand that he be granted an accommodation in an instance like this—where the objective is easily fulfilled with another signature on the certificate.

Fighting discrimination is never a waste of time and nowhere in the Constitution is there a right to discriminate. The Supreme Court has been very clear that the state cannot regulate belief but it can regulate conduct. Just asking for the religious accommodation was an insult. What? He really cannot sign a goddamned note out of courtesy? What else is he unwilling to do?

This is also a re-tooled version of “they got served elsewhere.” The argument fails because the individual is made to feel less equal than others. In this case the master sergeant was discriminated against regardless of the fact that his husband received a note signed by a general. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in our armed forces.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.