A veteran is threatening legal action against the U.S. Air Force if it does not apologize for forcibly removing him from a retirement ceremony at Travis Air Force Base in California, where he was invited to give a speech referencing “God.”
Oscar Rodriguez, a 33-year Air Force veteran, was invited to speak at the April flag-folding ceremony by retiring Master Sgt. Charles Roberson, who heard Mr. Rodriguez deliver the speech one month prior and wanted it performed at his own retirement ceremony.
But when Mr. Rodriguez stood up to deliver the remarks, which included references to God, he was approached by several uniformed attendees, who grabbed him and dragged him out of the room. He was later ordered off the base.
“It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life,” Mr. Rodriguez said in a press release. “I have given more than three decades of service to the military and made many sacrifices for my country. 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.”
Mr. Rodriguez retained the First Liberty Institute, the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated to upholding religious liberty, to represent him in potential legal action against the Air Force.
First Liberty sent a letter Monday to the Air Force and to the commander at Travis Air Force Base, demanding an apology and threatening to take legal action on Mr. Rodriguez’s behalf.
“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,’” said Mike Berry, director of military affairs at First Liberty, in a press release. “Mr. Rodriguez has a constitutional right to free speech and religious expression, even on a military base. The military broke the law and abused its power.”
Attorneys for First Liberty asked for a response by June 27, or they would “pursue all available legal options.”
The standard flag-folding oration was updated by the Pentagon in 2005 to remove any references to the almighty, but many service members still prefer the traditional version and request it at their retirement ceremonies.
The traditional version closes with, “God bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.”