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A Win for Conscience’s Sake

The Air Force's reversal in the case of Colonel Leland Bohannon is a win for individual's rights and conscience.

He’s known in the news as Colonel Leland Bohannon. Those of us who know him as a friend call him Bo and I have called him friend for over 20 years now. He’s a genteel sort of guy, easy going and considerate of others even while holding strong convictions of his own.

Until 2017, he was one of the rising stars in the Air Force and had already been recommended for promotion to one star general. His career was almost derailed by events that many would consider insignificant.

Last May, Bo declined to sign a spouse appreciation certificate for a retiring master sergeant’s same-sex spouse, claiming he could not in all good conscience do it. As a committed Christian, he does not believe in same sex marriage. Instead, he asked a superior officer to sign the certificate and that superior officer did. Case closed.

Except it wasn’t.

The retiring master sergeant took offense at Bo’s actions and filed an Equal Opportunity discrimination complaint. Even though Bo had sought every opportunity and used every proper channel to create a solution for all parties, it wasn’t good enough and when the Equal Opportunity investigators ruled against Bo, he was relieved of command and his promotion halted.

It seemed this was the end of his career. But Bo decided to fight back and the First Liberty Institute agreed to take his case. Then, this past fall, eight Republican Senators wrote a letter to the new Air Force Secretary, Heather Wilson, asking the Air Force to rescind its decision. After a lengthy review, Secretary Wilson did just that, fully restoring Bo to his command and putting his career on back on track. It was an unexpected and incredible turn of events.

In a letter to Members of Congress, Secretary Wilson wrote:

“The director concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same-sex spouse of an airman in his command.”

Why is this all so important? Because it is a win for conscience’s sake, something that is inherently American and yet appears lost in our modern culture. Those on the Left, as they already have this week, will decry the Air Force’s decision as reinforcing discrimination. It does not. It reinforces the right of every man or woman to act based on conscience’s sake within the parameters of a healthy (and just) society.

This is a big win for everyone, no matter which side of the ideological aisle you are on. It should be celebrated as such.


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