The U.S. military is on a “slippery slope” toward becoming thought police, charges an attorney defending an Air Force airman who claims he was fired for his religious beliefs about homosexuality.

“It’s now reaching the point it’s not acceptable to think something,” attorney Mike Berry of Liberty Institute told WND on Monday.

Berry is defending Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, who says he was “relieved of my position because I don’t agree with my commander’s position on gay marriage,” reported Todd Starnes of Fox News Radio.

The conflict began when Monk objected to the plans of his commander at Lackland Air Force Base to severely punish a supervised staff sergeant who expressed religious objections to homosexuality to trainees.

During their conversation, the commander ordered Monk to reveal his personal views on homosexuality. Monk claims he then was relieved of his position because his views differed from the commander’s.

Monk had told Starnes that the commander expressed concern about the chaplain who was to deliver the benediction at her promotion ceremony. She called him a “bigot” who “preached that homosexuality is a sin.”

Berry said the Air Force later claimed that Monk’s statements were false, and an investigation is under way. Berry said he’s not sure of when the results of the probe will be available, but he contends the case should serve as a warning.

“We don’t have sergeants one year shy of retirement risking their career [to make up statements],” he said.

Read about a new report that documents government attacks on religious rights.

Berry said that throughout the U.S. military’s history, people have not been punished for what they think.

“You cannot criminalize somebody’s thoughts. You criminalize actions, not thoughts,” he said. “Within the military never before have we reached that status.”

But that’s changed recently, he said.

“We’re now at this juncture … if you don’t believe, or think in a particular manner, that’s going to be held against you,” said Berry.

Last week, as WND reported, an Army trainer in Mississippi told soldiers that the pro-family American Family Association was a “hate group.”

The contention apparently was based on AFA’s support for traditional marriage. However, the resulting uproar prompted the Pentagon to issue a statement disavowing the trainer’s statements.

Berry told WND the attitude in the Mississippi was similar to that of the Monk case.

“He had to agree with her beliefs, and if he wasn’t able to do that, he was deemed unfit to hold that position,” Berry said. “This is a dangerous and slippery slope … that somehow the government is going to be delving into your thoughts.”

Starnes reported it is possible Monk, a 19-year veteran with a “spotless record,” could be dismissed from the military because of his Christian beliefs.

But he’s not the only Christian at Lackland Air Force Base facing reprisal for opposing same-sex marriage.

Village Parkway Baptist Church pastor Steve Branson told Starnes half a dozen members of his church are facing reprisal on the base because of their faith.

“Anyone who doesn’t hold to the right view on homosexuality is having a very difficult time,” he told Fox News Radio.

“I’m raising the warning,” Branson told Starnes. “It’s not a good situation out here. The military’s job is not to fight these kinds of battles. Christians are having to walk so carefully. I hear it every Sunday at church.”

Shortly after Barack Obama took office, federal hate-crimes legislation was adopted and signed into law.

Under the law, anyone determined to have a bias-related motive in the commission of a crime, such as an assault, is given harsher penalties if convicted.

In deliberations on the law, members of Congress were told it would provide protections for a homosexual in a dispute that would not be available to a Christian pastor in a related scenario.

The Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act lists “sexual orientation” as a protected class; however, it does not define the term.

While it was being deliberated, Republicans attempted to add an amendment specifying that “pedophilia is not covered as an orientation.” However, the amendment was defeated by Democrats in Congress.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., stated that all alternative sexual lifestyles should be protected under the law.

“This bill addresses our resolve to end violence based on prejudice and to guarantee that all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability or all of these ‘philias’ and fetishes and ‘isms’ that were put forward need not live in fear because of who they are.”

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