Captain Sonny Hernandez
By Nina Burleigh / 09.15.2017
A U.S. Air Force chaplain who ministers to thousands of men and women at an Ohio base is asserting that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members’ right to practice other faiths.
In an article posted on BarbWire.com three days ago, Captain Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, criticized Christian service members who rely on the Constitution “and not Christ.”
He wrote: “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 why 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.”
Hernandez continued: “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”
All members of the U.S. military, including military chaplains, take an oath when they sign up for the Armed Servcies: “I , _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.’’
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has filed multiple requests that Hernandez be investigated by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) inspector general. In a statement, the MRFF said it has received “many complaints” about Hernandez from service members over the last few years. It filed an official request with the DoD for an investigation in April, and filed a new complaint related to the BarbWire.com essay this week. The MRFF said the article “blatantly and indisputably advocates the subordinating of the U.S. Constitution to his personal Christian ideology and violated his Oath of Office as a commissioned officer, as well as Title 18, U.S. Code § 2387’s criminal prohibitions against counseling or urging insubordination, disloyalty, or ‘refusal of duty’ to other military members.”
MRFF founder Michael Weinstein, a retired Air Force officer, says the article is evidence of the trickle-down effect of President Donald Trump’s relationship with the far fringes of the Christian right.
“America’s military members look to the president for direction and inspiration,” Weinstein said. “Trump’s statements and actions have fully endorsed and validated this unbridled tidal wave of fundamentalist Christian persecution, which is now more inextricably intertwined into the very fabric of our Department of Defense than ever before.”
Earlier this year, the MRFF told Newsweek that the number of complaints it has received from servicemen and -women in the Army, Air Force, Marines and other branches has doubled since Trump’s election.
Many of the recent charges are coming from members of minority religions, including Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims, and from atheists. Among the complaints: military family and marital therapy programs are being infused with Protestant Christianity, which would violate the U.S. Constitution; open anti-Semitism; anti-LGBT statements, posters, symbols and bullying; openly anti-Muslim teachers and Islamophobic attacks; a rise in on-base evangelizing; and increased pressure on recruits or lower-level personnel and service members to convert to fundamentalist Christianity.
Noncommissioned officers at one Air Force base reported that their superiors told them Trump would make it USAF policy that in order for “disbelieving Jews” to be allowed into the USAF or be deemed fit for promotions, they would have to show via objectively established behavior that they were at least honestly “considering the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
At another base, the wife of a combat-decorated Muslim U.S. Naval officer, who was wearing a Muslim headscarf, was surrounded in the commissary and spat upon and cursed as not being a “true American and being a spy and a terrorist.” She was with her children at the time.
More than 100 service members also complained in March when Army Major General Julie Bentz, vice director of the multiservice Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization, gave a speech at the 56th Annual Kansas Prayer Breakfast, during which she stated, “But my greatest privilege is standing in front of my king and my God, carrying every member of my organization to his throne and asking for his protection, his mercy, his love on each of them and their families and whatever are their concerns and burdens of the day.”
The Air Force base where Hernandez works and the inspector general’s office at the Department of Defense have not responded to requests for comment. If they do, this article will be updated.