Christian Airman Punished for Beliefs Receives Military Honor

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by Bethany Monk

Phillip Monk
Phillip Monk

A Christian airman fighting for his religious freedom in the military recently received a top service medal from the U.S. Air Force.

“This is a testament to Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk’s courage and conviction,” said Mike Berry, Liberty Institute director of Military Affairs. “I can think of few Airmen who have demonstrated the courage to stand on their principles the way Monk has, to be ostracized for it — but ultimately to be exonerated and awarded for his achievement.”

Monk filed suit against his openly gay commander, Major Elisa Valenzuela, last year for violating his rights. The incident occurred when she asked Monk whether people who do not support same-sex marriage are participating in discrimination. He said he could not respond, fearing an honest answer would lead to legal trouble.

Valenzuela was asking Monk his opinion on same-sex marriage after a lower-ranking trainer made comments about how such marriage could lead to cultural decline. Monk told Valenzuela the instructor meant no harm, and that perhaps the commander could use the situation to teach about tolerance and diversity.

Instead, she relieved him of his duties at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He also faced the possibility of being court-martialed.

Liberty Institute, representing Monk, announced on Monday that the Air Force awarded him with a Meritorious Service Medal on Feb. 12. It is the second highest non-combat award. Previous recipients include Sen. John McCain and General Norman Schwarzkopf.

Berry called the Meritorious Service Medal a “prestigious decoration.”

“And one for which Monk should be proud. This is a noble gesture by the Air Force to recognize Monk’s hard work and sacrifice,” Berry explained. “I’m pleased that they’ve done the right thing by him. Because of his example, other service members should be encouraged to stand up for their religious beliefs.”