Reprimand of Air Force colonel sparks protest

Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

SAN ANTONIO (BP) — First Liberty Institute is seeking justice for U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Madrid, a flight surgeon the institute said was reprimanded in 2016 for his Christian religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
The U.S. Air Force originally cleared Madrid in 2014 of charges that he made unsubstantiated derogatory comments against homosexuality to an openly gay airman prior to the airman’s court martial for unrelated criminal offenses. But when Madrid was placed under the command of Maj. Gen. John E. McCoy two years after the case was closed, McCoy accused Madrid of having lied during the investigation and disciplined him without any new evidence, First Liberty, a religious freedom law firm, said.

First Liberty is demanding that the Air Force rescind McCoy’s official “letter of admonishment” from Madrid’s permanent record or face further legal action. The letter denies Madrid’s due process, First Liberty said, and discriminates against the devout Christian because he believes marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.

“Colonel Madrid submitted to an extensive military investigation and the Air Force cleared him,” Mike Berry, First Liberty senior counsel and director of military affairs, said in a March 29 news release. “Major General McCoy has no right to ignore the rule of law and arbitrarily decide, more than two years later and without any new evidence, that he can punish Col. Madrid.”

Weeks before McCoy issued the letter, Madrid had been promoted from lieutenant colonel to colonel, but the letter virtually insures that Madrid will not be promoted to the next rank of brigadier general, Berry said. Rather, the discipline could lead to Madrid’s demotion, causing him to lose tens of thousands of dollars in active and retired pay, the attorney said.