Earlier this month, while speaking at the Heritage Foundation, fired Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran warned that Christians who publicly hold to the Bible’s teaching on marriage will be considered unworthy to work in the public sector. Even though most Christians recognize that Cochran’s words are true, it’s still unsettling when his warning is proven true. In the most recent example, the Air Force has suspended an officer over his views on same-sex marriage and revoked the recommendation that he be promoted.
Stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Colonel Leland B.H. Bohannon stood firm in his conviction that marriage is only between one man and one woman. The problems started when a subordinate retired. Col. Bohannon signed all of the documents for the service member’s retirement ceremony — except one. He left unsigned an unofficial document celebrating the retiring service member’s same-sex marriage.
Claiming discrimination, the service member filed a complaint. After an investigation, Col. Bohannon was found guilty of unlawful discrimination.
Three important points:
- The document that Col. Bohannon refused to sign wasn’t even an official document.
- A two-star general signed the document after Col. Bohannon asked him to. The retiring service member received the document signed by an officer outranking Bohannon. One could argue that the retiring service member was honored more because of Bohannon’s convictions.
- Since the document was unofficial, Bohannon was unsure of how to proceed and consulted the staff judge advocate and the command chaplain. He was advised to request a religious exemption. He did so, but had the request returned “without action.”
None of that mattered to the retiring service member who filed the complaint claiming unlawful discrimination. And none of that mattered to the U.S. Air Force.
Representing Col. Bohannon, the First Liberty Institute filed an appeal on his behalf. In the appeal, First Liberty Institute details Col. Bohannon’s distinguished service record:
As you are undoubtedly aware, Col Bohannon has devoted more than two decades to the military service of his country. In that time he has flown over 3,300 flight hours, including combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Col Bohannon’s service has been exemplary, as evidenced by his many awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Air Medal. Among Col Bohannon’s recent Officer Performance Reports (OPR), Brig Gen Kristen Goodwin ranked him her number one of eleven wing O-6s, and Lt Gen Gregory Biscone ranked him number one of thirty O-6s. In his most recent OPR—just five weeks prior to the incident in question—Lt Gen Anthony Rock ranked Col Bohannon in the top two percent of O-6s over his 35 years of service. And that was while Col Bohannon was serving as Commander of the Air Force Inspection Agency, where his duties included oversight of our nation’s Nuclear Surety Inspection program. In short, Col Bohannon has consistently been one of the Air Force’s top performers throughout his career.
Trashing a distinguished colonel’s career, the Air Force has also run roughshod over Bohannon’s First Amendment rights. The Constitution does not allow the government (the Air Force) to punish people for their religious beliefs. Col. Bohannon’s right to adhere to his religious conviction that marriage is only between one man and one woman is supposed to be protected.
Christians in the private sector should prayerfully watch the firing of men like Kelvin Cochran and Col. Bohannon while preparing to suffer the same consequences. If the government isn’t going to uphold religious freedom, I can only imagine how hard it’s going to become to be a committed Christian working in the private sector.