Conservative outlets are excitedly chattering about the case of Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, who claims he was fired for his religious views on marriage equality. He has since hired the Liberty Institute to represent him, a group that regularly defends conservative Christians on behalf of “religious liberty.”
Unfortunately, the facts of Monk’s story do not seem to add up to the claims of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for Christians he’s now making in the media. Monk supervised a staff sergeant who was openly opposing homosexuality on religious grounds to trainees, violating policy that prohibits officers from using a position of authority to promote personal religious beliefs. He informed his commanding officer, and when she insisted that the sergeant be punished, Monk resisted because he shared the same beliefs and didn’t believe them to be discriminatory. In fact, he asserted that the sergeant did nothing wrong and it should just be a “learning experience.”
In other words, the case is not about his beliefs about marriage or homosexuality, but about his willingness to follow his commander’s instructions and enforce military policy. It doesn’t matter that Monk’s commanding officer was a lesbian or that her opinion on marriage equality differs from his. Furthermore, he wasn’t “fired,” he was simply reassigned, and he even admits that he was due for a reassignment and that his new position is commensurate with his rank and experience. What he is worried about is whether he’ll receive a Meritorious Service Medal he’d been recommended for — before he apparently refused to follow his commander’s orders.
The sergeant who imposed his religious beliefs on trainees is the one who faced repercussions for how he expressed himself, not Monk. Still, he’s even taken to Fox News to claim he was “let go” for his “deep religious conviction and belief”:
Conservatives are making the case that Monk’s story speaks to the need for so-called “conscience protections” when it comes to expressing beliefs about homosexuality in the military. This would create a blanket license to bully and discriminate against gay servicemembers, an exception to longstanding rules against using positions of authority to impose religious beliefs.