The Fourth Amendment has been getting a workout around here this week thanks to the NSA controversy — and my weekend column has another whack at it. But it is the First Amendment that continues to be in real peril — and once again, the U.S. military brass is among the worst offenders. At Fox News, Todd Starnes reports that a 25-year Army veteran — an unabashed conservative and Christian who has received service commendations and performs in the Army band — is being disciplined for such offenses as reading David Limbaugh’s The Great Destroyer, Mark Levin’s Ameritopia, and books by Sean Hannity:
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers, a 25-year Army veteran and conservative Christian based at Fort Myer in Washington, believes his outspoken opposition to gay marriage prompted higher-ups to take a closer look at his beliefs. The recipient of an Army Commendation Medal and a soloist at the funeral of former First Lady Betty Ford, Sommers said his core beliefs are enough to mark a soldier for persecution in today’s military.
“It seems like with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – that the Christians have been the ones who’ve had to go underground and in the closet – for fear of retaliation and reprisals,” Sommers told Fox News. “Christians feel like they can’t be forthright with their faith. They have to hide.”
Ret. Navy Commander John Bennett Wells is representing the master sergeant. He said there is no doubt in his mind that the U.S. military is discriminating against Christians – and specifically his client. “There’s no question about it,“ Wells told Fox News. “Because he is religious, because he feels that homosexual conduct is wrong for religious reasons, he is basically being persecuted.”
Lt. Col. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon released a statement to Fox News noting that the military branch cannot comment on ongoing investigations or administrative actions.
“With respect to the political activities, soldiers are expected to carry out their obligations as citizens in accordance with applicable regulations,” Platt said.
Army documents obtained by Fox News indicate Sommers was told that his actions bordered on being disrespectful to President Obama and the “slightest inference of disrespect towards superiors can have a demoralizing effect on the unit.” “You should strive to express your opinion while being aware of the overall ramifications of your statements,” the Army noted.
Sommers’ troubles began last April when he was told to remove pro-Republican, anti-Obama bumper stickers that were on his privately owned car. The stickers read: “Political Dissent is NOT Racism,” “NOBAMA,” NOPE2012” and “The Road to Bankruptcy is Paved with Ass-Fault.” That sticker included the image of a donkey. His superior officer told the solider that the bumper stickers were creating “unnecessary workplace tension.”
“The types of stickers on your car were creating an atmosphere detrimental to morale and were creating unnecessary workplace tension,” the officer wrote in an Army document obtained by Fox News. “A Soldier must balance their personal feelings with the mission of the U.S. Army. Even the slightest inference of disrespect towards superiors can have a demoralizing effect on the unit.”
Attorney Wells said once he got involved, the military backed off of filing a formal reprimand.
“He’s allowed to have those bumper stickers on his car,” he said. “The DoD regulation allows it. There was nothing obscene about it.”
During the summer months, Sommers came under fire for reading the works of Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and David Limbaugh.
Sommers was reading Limbaugh’s “The Great Destroyer” backstage at a U.S. Army Band concert at the U.S. Capitol. A superior officer told him that he was causing “unit disruption” and was offending other soldiers.
“I wasn’t reading aloud,” he said. “I was just reading privately to myself. I was told they were frowning on that and they warned me that I should not be reading literature like that backstage because it was offensive.”
In another episode, he had been caught backstage reading a copy of Levin’s “Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America.” Sommers said he was told to refrain from reading the book “while in uniform or within sight of anyone from the band.”…
I’m betting that reading Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope would not have been a problem. What’s disruptive to our Defense Department is not political opinion … it’s the wrong political opinion.