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Group files complaint over Wright-Patt reserve chaplain

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 5:00 AM
By: Barrie Barber - Staff Writer

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said it has filed a complaint about a Wright-Patterson Christian chaplain who in a blog post wrote military service members are “grossly in error, and deceived” if they support service members of some different faiths for practicing their religion under the Constitution.

Capt. Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain with the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson, wrote in part on a Sept. 12 BarbWire.com blog post: “Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home — which means they have no accountability for their souls (Heb. 13:17). This is what so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.”

He added in the post: “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other non-Christian worldviews to practice their religions — because the language in the Constitution permits — are grossly in error and deceived.”

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An attorney representing the New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office on Sept. 15, over the chaplain’s written remarks.

“You take an oath when you’re commissioned to support and defend the Constitution, period, with no reservations,” said Donald G. Rehkopf, a Rochester, N.Y., attorney representing MRFF and a former Air Force lawyer. “A lot of people are exposed to his thoughts and beliefs professionally and religiously, and for younger enlisted troops to be hearing stuff like that he’s in essence telling them to avoid their … duties to comply with the law.”

This newspaper sent messages to Hernandez seeking comment.

“He’s been trying to establish a religious faith and he’s creating a religious test,” said MRFF President and Founder Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, also a former Air Force lawyer who has demanded an investigation and punishment for the remarks. “This is absolutely a cancer to the very essence of what it takes to put a military together. It destroys good order, morale, discipline, unit cohesion, the health and safety of the troops, mission readiness and military accomplishment. It’s completely antithetical to that.”

The MRFF has had a doubling in complaints about issues related to religion in the military since President Donald Trump was elected to the White House, Weinstein said.

The latest complaint was one of multiple filed by the MRFF over Hernandez since April, Weinstein said.

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The blog post has an addendum that Hernandez “wrote this article as a civilian on his own time on an issue of public interest.” The reservist is also listed as director of Reforming America Ministries.

Hernandez is a former Air Force Life Cycle Management Center individualized mobilization accession company grade officer of the year. In an Air Force article in April 2015 about the award, it noted while at the Air Force Academy, Hernandez was cited for “on-call chaplain support to the active-duty Rabbi chaplain, allowing the cadets Jewish religious rites.”

The 445th Airlift Wing selected the chaplain as the company grade officer of the first quarter of 2016, according to the wing’s website. He joined the wing in November 2014 and has served in the military since 1997, according to published sources.

A wing spokeswoman Monday referred questions about the MRFF complaint to the DoD IG’s office, which had not responded by deadline.