A U.S. veteran is threatening to sue the Air Force if he doesn’t receive an apology for being forcibly removed from a ceremony at an Air Force base where he gave a speech which made references to God.
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez had been invited to a retirement ceremony for Master Sgt. Chuck Roberson, but was removed from the event when he attempted to read an older, more religious form of a speech for the traditional flag-folding ceremony, according to the Daily Mail.
“This was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life,” Rodriguez told Fox News. “All I wanted to do was honor Master Sgt. Roberson, his guests, and the flag, with my speech.”
Rodriguez is now seeking a formal apology for what he says was a violation of his first amendment rights.
“We took this case because the government has no right to throw a citizen, much less a 33-year military veteran, off a military base because they don’t want him to mention ‘God,'” said Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute, an organization which advocates for victims of religious persecution.
“The military broke the law and abused its power,” Berry said.
A video of the incident shows two men in camouflage walking in front of Rodriguez as he tries to read his speech. He is then seen being pushed out of the room as he continues to shout the words of his speech.
The speech had been changed by the military in 2006 to remove references to God and religion. “Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempts to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery,” read part of the old speech, which concluded with the words, “God bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.”
John Huffington, a friend of Roberson’s, called Rodriguez’s removal during the ceremony “disturbing,” in a post of Facebook in which he included a video of the incident.
The Air Force has said in a statement that it respects the right to free speech, as well as freedom of religion. “I can’t speak to the specific incident [but] Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that is religious for retirement ceremonies,” said Ann Stefanek, a spokesperson for the Air Force.
“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.”
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