Colonel Bohannon | Cases | First Liberty

Meet Colonel Leland Bohannon

For over twenty years, Colonel Leland Bohannon has dedicated his life to service over self in the United States Air Force. With over 3,300 flight hours in various airframes, including B-2A and B-52H bombers and combat missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, Col. Bohannon is a decorated and experienced combat pilot. He has earned the Bronze Star (earned in Afghanistan), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Air Medal. He is eligible for a merit-based promotion to Brigadier General, a one-star general officer. He is also a husband, father of five, and a devout Christian.

In the Air Force, Col. Bohannon is known for more than accomplishments. He lives with integrity, serves others before himself, and strives for excellence in all things. Col Bohannon’s superiors, peers, and subordinates—including Brigadier General Kristin E. Goodwin, Commandant of Cadets, United States Air Force Academy—have praised his character and leadership abilities.

Case History

As a devout Christian, Col. Bohannon adheres to the basic Christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. When one of Col Bohannon’s subordinates, who happens to be homosexual, announced his retirement, the Air Force delivered to Col Bohannon the standard awards, gifts, and honors that are often presented to retiring service members. Col. Bohannon readily signed each document for the retiring Airman. But when the Air Force presented a certificate of spouse appreciation—an optional, unofficial certificate, similar to a bouquet of flowers —to Col Bohannon, his sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from signing it because doing so would signify. his personal endorsement of the same-sex marriage.

Attempting to balance his legal right to live according to his religious beliefs with a request to sign an optional, unofficial spouse appreciation certificate, Col Bohannon sought guidance from his chaplain and his military “JAG” attorney. The chaplain recommended Col Bohannon request a religious accommodation that would excuse him from having to personally sign a document in a manner that violated his religious beliefs.

While Col Bohannon pursued the religious accommodation, a two-star general advised that he would sign the certificate in his place, a solution with which Col Bohannon readily agreed. Thus, the Airman’s spouse received a certificate with the far superior signature of a two-star general. But upon learning that Col Bohannon did not personally sign the spouse certificate due to his sincerely held religious beliefs, the MSgt filed a formal Equal Opportunity complaint. In his complaint, the MSgt alleged that Col Bohannon unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation.

The Air Force conducted an investigation into the allegations and found them to be substantiated, meaning the Air Force believes Col Bohannon is guilty of unlawful discrimination because he did not personally sign an optional, unofficial certificate, even though he successfully obtained a far superior signature on the certificate. The Air Force investigation acknowledged that Col Bohannon requested a religious accommodation, but stated that even if it had been granted, it would not change the outcome or Col Bohannon’s “guilt.”

This led to First Liberty Institute’s action on behalf of Col Bohannon.

Victory

First Liberty stepped in to fight for Col. Bohannon’s religious freedom by appealing on his behalf to the Secretary of the Air Force. The Secretary of the Air Force agreed that Col. Bohannon’s right to free exercise of religion must be respected. This win will not only clear the name of a highly decorated officer but provide increased clarity for commanders responsible for protecting the religious liberty of all service members.

Click here to read the Air Force’s final decision.

Commenting on the victory, Hiram Sasser, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute, reminds us all to remain vigilant.

“We are very pleased that Secretary Wilson protected the religious liberty of Col. Bohannon. This is clear evidence that the Trump administration is helping to right the ship at the Pentagon. However, we must remember that at every level of the government there are bureaucrats who actively resist President Trump’s efforts to preserve and protect religious freedom. We must do whatever we can to support the administration in this fight.”

 

Press Statement
April 3, 2018

Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Cell: 972-989-2403, Direct: 972-941-4453


 

Secretary of the Air Force Restores Career of Decorated
Air Force Colonel Punished for Religious Beliefs

Response an important step in protecting the religious liberty of al members of the armed forces

Washington, D.C.–After receiving First Liberty Institute’s appeal, as well as correspondence from Members of Congress, the Secretary of the Air Force today announced that it reversed the unfavorable decision of an Air Force Equal Opportunity investigator against decorated Air Force Colonel Leland Bohannon, clearing his name, and fully restoring his service record.

The following statement may be attributed to Hiram Sasser, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute:

“We are very pleased that Secretary Wilson protected the religious liberty of Col. Bohannon. This is clear evidence that the Trump administration is helping to right the ship at the Pentagon. However, we must remember that at every level of the government there are bureaucrats who actively resist President Trump’s efforts to preserve and protect religious freedom. We must do whatever we can to support the administration in this fight.”

In a letter to Representative Vicki Hartzler, Secretary Wilson stated that Col. Bohannon had the “right to exercise his sincerely held and did not discriminate” when his faith prevented him from personally signing an optional, unofficial spouse appreciation certificate for the same-sex spouse of one of his retiring subordinates, even though a two-star general agreed to sign the form in his place. First Liberty hopes that this will lead to increased clarity for commanders responsible for protecting the religious liberty of all service members.

To download this press release, please click here.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

First Liberty Logo - Restoring Religious Liberty for All Americans

To The American Legion:

As a grateful citizen, I support your effort to honor those who have fallen in battle and to keep the Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial standing as a visible reminder of valor, sacrifice, endurance, and devotion.

Veterans memorials like the one in Bladensburg, MD are symbols reminding us of the sacrifice of our service members and the cost of war. Tearing down the Bladensburg Memorial would erase the memory of the 49 fallen heroes of Prince George’s County—like they never even existed.

We cannot allow the Bladensburg Memorial to be bulldozed.

Please know that you have my support and backing in your petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.