A retired senior master sergeant whose ejection during a flag-folding ceremony in 2016 sparked a nationwide uproar is suing the Air Force for alleged civil rights violations.
Oscar Rodriguez was tossed out of a ceremony for his friend at Travis Air Force Base in California when he stood to deliver an unauthorized speech during a flag-folding ceremony that mentioned God, the Air Force Times reported.
The friend, Master Sgt. Charles Roberson, is also a plaintiff to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday by the religious freedom organization First Liberty Institute, the news outlet reported.
“No one should be assaulted for saying the word ‘God’ on an Air Force base,” Hiram Sasser, general counsel for First Liberty, said in a release. “Certainly, our United States airmen are strong enough to be exposed to the word ‘God’ at a retirement ceremony.”
The Air Force Inspector General said in a September 2016 report that Rodriguez was not removed because his speech mentioned God, but because it was unauthorized — and had been told multiple times that he couldn’t deliver the speech because the ceremony was an official on-base retirement, according to the Air Force Times.
Rodriguez ignored the instructions and was hauled out of the ceremony by four noncommissioned officers while continuing to shout his speech, the Air Force Times reported.
“I spent my career in the Air Force defending this country from its enemies,” Rodriguez said in the First Liberty release. “I never thought any Air Force official would be afraid that someone would use the word ‘God’ on base, and I am shocked that they would assault me for trying.”
In the wake of the uproar, the Air Force in June 2016 revised its rules to specifically allow religious language during flag foldings at retirement ceremonies.
The lawsuit asks the court for a judgment declaring the Air Force violated Rodriguez and Roberson’s rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and due process and rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
It also asks for a permanent injunction requiring the Air Force to follow its revised policy and let Rodriguez speak at retirement ceremonies and other events when he’s invited.
The plaintiffs are also seeking unspecified damages and lawyer’s fees.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.