Rodriquez

Oscar Rodriquez/Photo: First Liberty

The U.S. military, under commander in chief Barack Obama, hasn’t necessarily been friendly to Christians, ordering them not to post Bible verses at work stations and more in various disputes. But a physical assault on a military retiree who was using a religious script for a flag-folding ceremony apparently is a step too far.

The non-profit legal advocacy group First Liberty Institute, which only a few days earlier had notified the federal government of the assault, said it has been told Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has ordered the Air Force inspector general to review the actions taken against Oscar Rodriguez.

It was the retired 33-year veteran of the Air Force who was “forcibly dragged” away from a retirement flag-folding speech “that included the word ‘God,'” the organization reported.

“We view the Pentagon’s action today as a positive first step toward not only acknowledging that religious scripts may be used at retirement ceremonies, but also ensuring these kinds of situations are not repeated,” said Mike Berry, director of military affairs for First Liberty Institute.

First Liberty sent a letter on Monday asking the Air Force to “acknowledge that religious scripts may be used in retirement ceremonies,” to apologize to Rodriguez and to “hold all responsible parties accountable for the assault.”

Within 48 hours, the military was on the record releasing a statement to the media: “Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that is religious for retirement ceremonies. Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored and represents the member’s views, not those of the Air Force. The Air Force places the highest value of the rights of its personnel in matters of religion and facilitates the free exercise of religion by its members.”

“The Evidence Bible” is now available and includes, besides the King James version, dozens of articles expanding answers to questions such as why is there suffering, explanations about what Muslims believe and scientific facts written millennia before man discovered them.

Then, First Liberty reported, came confirmation that James ordered the inspector general’s review.

The organization posted a video online of the assault:

And it also posted Rodriguez’s explanation of how the incident developed:

Rodriguez enlisted in the Air Force in 1980 and retired as senior master sergeant in 2013.

“For many years, Rodriguez regularly performed a patriotic flag-folding speech at retirement ceremonies, and civic and patriotic events,” the Institute reported, “In 2013, Congressman John Garamendi, D-Calif., sent Rodriguez a hand-written note thanking him for his service, and expressing how moved he was when he observed Oscar delivering his flag-folding speech at the California State Fair.”

So when Master Sgt. Charles Roberson retired just two months ago, he arranged for Rodriguez to deliver his flag-folding speech.

However, when Roberson’s unit commander “discovered that Rodriguez would be delivering the flag-folding speech, which mentions ‘God,’ during the ceremony, he attempted to prevent Rodriguez from attending.”

“After learning that he lacked authority to prevent Rodriguez from attending, the commander then told Roberson that Rodriguez could not give the speech. Rodriguez asked Roberson what he should do, and Roberson responded that it was his personal desire that Rodriguez give the flag-folding speech as planned.
“Roberson and Rodriguez tried to clear the speech through higher authorities at Travis Air Force Base, even offering to place notices on the door informing guests that the word ‘God’ would be mentioned. They never received a response from the authorities. As an Air Force veteran himself, Rodriguez stood firm on his commitment to Roberson.

“But when Rodriguez stood up to perform the flag-folding speech on the day of the ceremony as requested by Roberson, uniformed airmen approached him and warned, ‘You’re really going to do this?'” First Liberty reported.

When he started speaking he was dragged from the room, and Travis Air Force Base officials then removed Rodriguez from the installation entirely.

“I have given more than three decades of service to the military and made many sacrifices for my country,” said Rodriguez in a prepared statement. “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.”

Berry said the Constitution protects Rodriguez’s statements.

“The Air Force had no right to assault a citizen, much less a 33-year military veteran, because they didn’t want him to mention ‘God,'” he said. “Mr. Rodriguez has a constitutional right to free speech and religious expression, even on a military base.”

In 2011, the military demanded a pastor submit his prayer for approval before a Memorial Day event at a military cemetery in Houston, resulting in an order he not say “God” or “Jesus.”

First Liberty successfully fought the demand.

“The Evidence Bible” is now available and includes, besides the King James version, dozens of articles expanding answers to questions such as why is there suffering, explanations about what Muslims believe and scientific facts written millennia before man discovered them.

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