News (USA)

An Air Force Colonel is fighting for his right to discriminate against his subordinates

Leland Bohannon
Col. Leland Bohannon Photo: U.S. Air Force

An Air Force colonel has been reprimanded and transferred for refusing to sign a “certificate of spouse appreciation” for the same-sex partner of a retiring master sergeant.

Col. Leland Bohannon was then-commander of the Air Force Inspection Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, and claimed that to sign the document would conflict with his religious views.

His command chaplain suggested he file a religious accommodations request. When he did, it came back six weeks later “without action.”

Bohannon then got an off base superior officer to sign in his place, leading the master sergeant to file an Equal Opportunity complaint alleging unlawful discrimination, reports.

The complaint has been substantiated, and Bohannon, described as “highly decorated,” has been removed from command. In addition, a letter was sent by a superior officer to the Air Force Brigadier General promotion board recommending against Bohannon receiving a promotion.

He has been transferred to Washington, D.C., according to his lawyer, attorney Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute.

Related: 2 of Trump’s judicial nominees are from First Liberty Institute

Berry has decried the ruling and is appealing it.

“The accommodation should have been granted,” he said. “No airman…should ever have to forfeit their religious beliefs in order to serve in the military.”

In his appeal, Berry says “there is no legal right to a spouse certificate of appreciation… Moreover, the instruction does not require the commander to personally sign a certificate, should one be issued.”

So-called “religious freedom” laws have been a hot topic of late, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions issuing memos instructing the Department of Justice to give added weight to such complaints.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take up an appeal to a Texas Supreme Court ruling stating same-sex couples aren’t automatically entitled to benefits.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Jack Phillips, a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple on the grounds that it would violate his religious beliefs, is appealing a lower court ruling against him.

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