Air Force, sergeant dispute his reassignment
SAN ANTONIO (BP) -- Attorneys for a senior enlisted airman at Lackland Air Force Base say a military investigation that closed on Wednesday (Oct. 9) made false assertions, leaving questions about the veracity of the investigation.
Statements from the Air Force about the details of Senior Master Sgt. Philip Monk's reassignment within the base directly conflict with Monk's account that he was removed from his duties earlier than planned because of a disagreement with his lesbian commander over same-sex marriage.
Monk has said that Maj. Elisa Valenzuela relieved him of duty as first sergeant of the 326th Training Squadron in August because his Christian convictions prevented him from agreeing with her about same-sex marriage. The Air Force report said Monk was due to be reassigned at the time of the conflict and his transfer was nothing more than the fulfillment of that new assignment.
But two documents released by Plano-based Liberty Institute, which is representing Monk, reveal why Monk's attorneys question that assertion.
"The Air Force has not and cannot explain why SMSgt Monk was reassigned six weeks prior to his scheduled rotation date," said Monk's attorney, Mike Berry.
Both documents, indicating a planned intra-base re-assignment, are identical with one significant exception. Both transfer documents were signed by Valenzuela June 27, 2013. But the start dates differ. One indicates the declared action effective Sept. 30, the other Aug. 14 -- —just two days after the Air Force says Monk returned from the two weeks of leave they say he requested following his disagreement with Valenzuela.
The initial investigation prompted by Monk's complaint and led by Air Force Col. Mark Camerer found Monk's claim "unsubstantiated," according to an Air Force statement on Oct. 9.
The statement continued: "A parallel investigation looked into whether Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk made false official statements. It concluded statements he made were false."
The Liberty Institute quickly shot back.
"The Air Force's version of this story is not true," the religious liberty organization said in a news release.
"The documents don't lie," Berry charged. "The truth is that SMSgt Monk was removed and reassigned because he would not agree with his commander's views on same-sex marriage."
The Liberty news release stated flatly: "Although the Air Force now says that SMSgt Monk was simply at the end of his tour, official documents show that this is not true. SMSgt Monk was reassigned prior to that date."
In late July, Monk and his commander were in the midst of an investigation of an Air Force instructor's alleged anti-homosexual comments when Valenzuela, according to Monk, pressed him about his own views on the issue. Monk said the major, a lesbian and proponent of same-sex marriage, dismissed him after she discovered the two were "not on the same page." Monk said Valenzuela became increasing angry with him during the course of their discussion as she realized he would not affirm same-sex marriage.
Monk filed a formal complaint against Valenzuela for dismissing him because of his religiously held beliefs. The Air Force report stated Monk never voiced a religious or moral objection about same-sex marriage to his commander.
Berry said Valenzuela "created such a hostile work environment that SMSgt had no choice but to assent to his own removal."
Bonnie Pritchett writes for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.