A U.S. Air Force fighter pilot with the rank of captain has been suspended and had his access to classified information revoked after refusing to wear a mask due to religious beliefs.
In a letter to Air Force acting Secretary John Roth, the unnamed pilot based in Mississippi accused the military of violating his constitutional right of religious freedom by imposing a mask mandate that has “theoretical and unsubstantiated impacts to military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, and public health and safety.” He was suspended from duty on May 17 and from flying on June 8 after two previous commanders had ruled that he did not have to wear a mask.
The airman’s Christian beliefs are affected by supporting a false mask narrative that requires “participation in a lie, which is a sin,” according to Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing the pilot. Liberty Counsel pointed to recently released emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci that give conflicting information about the usefulness of masks.
To prove his case, the pilot submitted letters from chaplains who confirmed the pilot’s religious beliefs.
“From the beginning of this process, I have been upfront with my command about my religious beliefs,” the pilot said in the letter. “Instead of feigning compliance with mask requirements (like many of my colleagues) I chose to pursue a path of honesty with my leadership. Contrary to their assertions, my actions demonstrate a respect for command and authority rather than the cowardly path of feigned compliance.”
When asked for comment, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the Washington Examiner "We are looking into it."
The Air Force has spent $2 million and thousands of hours training the captain, who became a pilot in 2015 and deployed to the Middle East in 2017. He is now an instructor. The suspension has affected the military readiness of his squadron because it is now down one flight instructor and the pilot will have to requalify to fly, Liberty Counsel said.
A Feb. 16 Air Force memo stated that all personnel need to wear a mask while performing duties, with the exception of accommodating religious beliefs. This is in line with a previous memo from the Department of Defense titled “Religious Liberty in the Military Services,” which states in the first paragraph that “service members have the right to observe the tenets of their religion, or to observe no religion at all.”
The Air Force updated its policy on May 13 to remove a mask mandate for vaccinated personnel, however, supervisors are prohibited from asking anyone about vaccination status. The pilot has not been vaccinated.
“I am being discriminated against for not voluntarily getting a vaccine,” the pilot wrote. “I am now coerced to choose between violating my conscious on the matter of mask wear or violating my conscience by getting an unnecessary and supposedly non-coercive vaccine.”
He reported that 85% of the base was vaccinated and most personnel weren’t wearing masks anyway. No new COVID cases have been reported since March 21.
“I am required to fly to do my job,” the pilot said. “As of 8 Jun 21, my flying status was suspended, and am unable to perform my primary duties as a pilot. Nevertheless, I have been denied telework despite numerous colleagues being granted the same privilege.”
Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver told the Washington Examiner that he is concerned about the military’s obsession over masks and critical race theory instead of focusing on keeping America safe.
“There has been a disturbing mindset seemingly taken hold in various parts of the military that undermines their readiness,” he said. “They are less concerned about protecting our nation and more concerned about protecting radical ideology.”
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Original Author: Tori Richards
Original Location: Air Force fighter pilot suspended for refusing to wear mask