Sergeant dismissed for saying ... nothing
SAN ANTONIO (BP) -- Due to a perceived slight against homosexuality, Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk is in a fight for his career. The Lackland Air Force base first sergeant was told by his commanding officer to clear out his office on Aug. 9. The point of contention reportedly is not about anything Monk said, but what he refused to say.
"It's all because he didn't say anything wrong. He thought it," said Steven Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. Monk, his wife and their three teenage sons faithfully attend services each Sunday the pastor said.
Branson said he has been in touch with Monk since the sergeant told him Sunday (Aug. 11) of the untenable situation. The pastor said Monk feels abandoned by the institution he has served for 19 years. Deployed as a medic, Monk devoted himself to saving the lives of his fellow service men and women, according to his pastor.
"Now I'm in trouble," Monk told Branson, "and everybody's leaving me behind."
At issue is Monk's refusal to reveal his personal views regarding homosexual marriage to his commanding officer. According to a Fox News report, the commander, a lesbian, asked Monk to report on disciplinary proceedings for an Air Force instructor under investigation for making objectionable comments about homosexual marriage during a training session.
According to Fox News, Monk interviewed the instructor and determined his comments were not intentionally provocative. But some trainees complained. Monk suggested that his commander use the incident as a learning tool about tolerance and diversity, but to no avail.
"Her very first reaction was to say, 'We need to lop off the head of this guy.' The commander took the position that his speech was discrimination," Monk reportedly recounted.
Branson said the commander began to press Monk about his views on the issue.
Fox reported, "She said, 'Sgt. Monk, I need to know if you can, as my first sergeant, if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don't agree with homosexual marriage.'"
Having witnessed the commander's ire regarding the instructor, Monk declined to answer. He also understood Air Force policy demands silence from homosexual detractors.
"She got angrier and angrier with him," Branson said. "So he got fired for something she thinks he believes."
The action will be a mark on an otherwise spotless record. Branson called Monk "pure military" -- a real "do-it-by-the-book" serviceman who also happens to be a strong Christian.
It is because of his faith and the lesson he wants to teach his sons that compels him to take action. As Monk told his pastor, "I'm going to teach my boys they can't run from everything."
The Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, has agreed to represent Monk should the need for legal counsel become necessary. And although the family is "low-key" and not well-known, help has come from the church. Branson said members who are experienced news media and military professionals offered counsel on how to negotiate the anticipated onslaught of exposure and scrutiny.
"We're trying to provide him coverage," Branson said.
The Monk family has faithfully attended Village Parkway Baptist for two years, the pastor said. Though a number of military personnel from Lackland Air Force Base attend the church, many do not join because reassignments keep them on the move. But their attendance and involvement in the congregation is encouraged and valued, Branson said.
Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.