The story of Utah Air National Guard’s Tech. Sgt. Layne Wilson being reprimanded for writing a letter objecting to a wedding in the West Point chapel has right-wing pundits declaring the military is ousting their ranks because of religious beliefs.
In December, Wilson sent and email to Office of Chaplains Col. Barbara Sherer at West Point, objecting to a wedding ceremony held there for retired Army Captain Brenda Sue Fulton and Penelope Dara Gnesin.
Wilson wrote, “This is wrong on so many levels. If they wanted to get married in a hotel that is one thing. Our base chapels are a place of worship and this is a mockery to God and our military core values. I have proudly served 27 years and this is a slap in the face to us who have put our lives on the line for this country. I hope sir that you will take appropriate action so this does not happen again.”
The office forwarded the email to the Commandant of Cadets, who then notified the Utah Air National Guard. Lt. Col. Kevin Tobias notified Wilson, “You are hereby reprimanded. As a non-commissioned officer you are expected to maintain a standard of professional and personal behavior that is above reproach. You have failed!”
Wilson’s six-year reenlistment contract was denied and he was given only a one-year extension.
In a memorandum dated June 19, 2013 that was obtained by Fox News, Tobias wrote, “We talked about his feelings about DADT and how he doesn’t agree with it. I then told him that maybe this is a good time for him to move on because we’ve been ordered to not have an opinion about gays in the military and we need to treat them as we would treat anyone else in the service of our country.”
“I also reiterated that I respect his feelings but I’m not comfortable reenlisting him with his strong feelings about this matter,” he additionally wrote.
Col. Ronald Blunck also wrote, “Your right to practice your religious beliefs does not excuse you from complying with directives, instructions and lawful orders. … Lt. Col. Tobias is correct in demanding that TSgt. Wilson refrain from expressing opinions contrary to Air Force guidance while in uniform. … The Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was directed by law.”
Wilson is suing to be let back into the military on a six-year reenlistment contract. His attorney, John Wells, claims, “The military is trying to make examples of people who have religious beliefs that homosexual conduct in the military is wrong. The end game is to force conservative Christians out of the military.” He also claims that Wilson was supposedly simply reporting “what he believed was a violation of the law” given that the Defense of Marriage Act was still in place.
The repeal of DADT, however, was signed by President Barack Obama into law in Dec. 2010 and fully implemented in Sept. 2011.
Military chapels are nondenominational and are used by many different faiths, including those which perform same-sex marriages.
According to Tobias, Wilson and he had a discussion back in October, 2012, about the repeal of DADT.
“We talked about his feelings about DADT and how he doesn’t agree with it. I then told him that maybe this is a good time for him to move on because we’ve been ordered to not have an opinion about Gays in the military and we need to treat them as we would treat anyone else in the service of our country,” Tobias wrote in the memorandum. “I also reiterated that I respect his feelings but I’m not comfortable reenlisting him with his strong feelings about this matter.”
Fox News’ Todd Starnes, who Wilson had reached out to over the military denying him health benefits after he failed to provide a credit or debit card number for automatic payments, latched on to the story under the headline, “Airman Punished for Objecting to Gay Marriage in Military Chapel.” The story has now gone viral through ultra-conservative media and blogs.