November 2013 Church & State | People & Events


A new investigation casts doubts on the claims of an Air Force sergeant who became a folk hero to the Religious Right after he insisted that he was penalized for opposing same-sex marriage.

Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, who is assigned to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, claimed that he was taken out of his position in late July because he disagreed with his commanding officer’s stand on marriage equality.

Monk, who had been first sergeant of the base, said that he was penalized after he and his superior officer, a major, disagreed over what actions should be taken against a military training instructor who made discriminatory remarks against gays during a session with trainees.

Monk claimed that the major, who is a lesbian, argued with him over what to do about the matter. He claims that during the disagreement, she pressured him to state his views on same-sex marriage and queried him about his religious views. The conversation, Monk said, grew heated. Shortly after that, he was reassigned.

Military Times reported that the Air Force investigated the matter and found that Monk’s claims do not hold up. Col. Mark Camerer, a Lackland officer who oversaw the inquiry, found that Monk and the major had never discussed religion.

“The weight of the evidence shows that religion was never discussed between the two,” Camerer said in documents released by the Air Education and Training Command.

Camerer added, “In the end, this is a case about command authority, good order and discipline, and civil rights – not religious freedoms.”

The Air Force also found that Monk has made false official statements, although it has declined to punish him for that.

The investigation also pointed out that Monk’s reassignment was a routine matter. He was not abruptly reas­sign­ed, the Air Force report said. Rath­er, he was moved to another unit in Lackland as planned and had been not­ified about the pending move in April.

Monk, who is being represented by the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based Religious Right legal group, disputed the Air Force’s findings.