Originally published in Christian Today
A decorated US Air Force veteran was assaulted and removed from a private retirement ceremony of a fellow officer and kicked off a base for giving a speech that included the word “God,” his lawyers said.
For the incident, the First Liberty Institute (FLI) sent a demand letter to the US Air Force asking them to apologise for assaulting retired Air Force officer Oscar Rodriguez in an incident that happened last April 3 aboard the Travis Air Force Base during the retirement ceremony of Air Force Master Sergeant Charles Roberson.
Roberson previously heard Rodriguez deliver a patriotic flag-folding speech and he asked him to give the same speech at his retirement.
“I saw Oscar perform the speech live just one month prior to my own retirement ceremony and I really wanted him to be able to perform that same way at my ceremony,” said Roberson, according to FLI.
Rodriguez agreed, but when he stood up to start his flag-folding speech at the retirement ceremony, several uniformed Airmen assaulted and forcibly removed Rodriguez from the ceremony because his speech included the word “God.”
He was then ordered to leave the base. A video uploaded by FLI showed the incident.
“It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life,” said Rodriguez, who retired after 33 years in the service in 2013. “I have given more than three decades of service to the military and made many sacrifices for my country. To have the Air Force assault me and drag me out of a retirement ceremony simply because my speech included the word ‘God’ is something I never expected from our military.”
In the demand letter addressed to Major General John Flournoy Jr, commander of the 4th Air Force, and Colonel Raymond Kozak, commander of the 349th Air Mobility Wing (Reserve), FLI said the assault and removal of Rodriguez was in violation of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, action for neglect to prevent conspiracy and Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
The FLI is demanding the Air Force commanders to order the uniformed Airmen to apologise to Rodriguez and issue a written assurance that no member of the 349th Air Mobility Wing will commit assault or battery against Rodriguez.
“Mr Rodriguez has a constitutional right to free speech and religious expression, even on a military base,” said Mike Berry, FLI director of military affairs.