Air Force veteran removed from colleague's ceremony after referencing 'God' in speech

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (KGO) -- Travis Air Force Base is the setting for what some are calling a battle for religious freedom. It involves a retirement ceremony, a speech including the word God, and the physical removal of a man from the ceremony.

The man who was thrown out of the ceremony is himself a 30-year Air Force veteran. He's done this ceremony hundreds of times in different parts of the country, but this time he's threatening to sue the Air Force.

The video is all over the internet. Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez says he was manhandled and removed from speaking at a colleague's retirement ceremony because he used one three letter word.

"To have my fellow family throw me out of the ceremony because of the mention of God is beyond me," he said.

The video and sound bite are courtesy of the Texas-based First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group that specializes in religious freedom cases. Rodriguez was reading a script during the flag folding section of a colleague's retirement ceremony. He knew that the commanding officer didn't want the word God in the script.

But attorney Mike Barry says, "Nobody expected that to happen, in fact, I asked Chuck what his reaction was and he said we were all stunned in disbelieve, we couldn't believe what was happening before our eyes."

The matter is now in the hands of the Air Force inspector general, who is launching an investigation. But, the regulations we received Thursday from the Air Force secretary's office seem pretty clear.

Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that has religious references at their retirement ceremonies. And they state: "Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag-folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored."

Pedro Fernandez has run a barbershop outside the Travis Air Force Base gate for 40 years. He blames political correctness.

"The whole country was brought about by God," he said. "And it says 'In God We Trust.'"
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.