A member of the U.S. Army Band who said he was reprimanded for having anti-Obama bumper stickers on his personal car, serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at a party and reading books written by conservative authors like Sean Hannity was found guilty of three Article 15 charges.
Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers, a decorated soloist with the Army Band, was found guilty of failing to go to an appointed place of duty, disobedience of an order and making a false official statement, his attorney said.
The charges were handed down one day after Sommers told Fox News that he was facing discrimination and persecution because of his conservative political and religious beliefs.
Retired Navy Commander John Bennett Wells told Fox News the charges were stemmed from giving a superior officer the wrong date for a doctor’s appointment. He’s also accused of failing to carry out an order. In order to comply with that order, Sommers would have had to disclose private information about his autistic son’s medical records.
“The timing does seem strange,” Wells told Fox News. “It’s suspicious. It looks like a graduated attempt to build a case against him on some really ridiculous charges.
Sommers, a 25-year military veteran, received an oral reprimand and will not be reduced in rank.
Wells said he plans on appealing the non-judicial punishment and is considering a lawsuit under the Administrative Procedures Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“MSG Sommers wants to thank the tens of thousands of Americans that have followed his case and offered up prayers for his case,” Wells said. “He has decided to put his fate in God’s hands and continues to pray for those who are persecuting him.”
The Military District of Washington did not return calls seeking comment about the soldier’s punishment.
Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin told Fox News it appears the Army is trying to send a message to not only Sommers but others in his unit.
“Over my 36 years in the US Army I saw numerous situations like this where a soldier is singled out by the chain of command for punishment,” Boykin said. “The Article 15 proceeding may be technically legitimate, but one must recognize that an Army Master Sergeant with 25 years does not normally do stupid things that are easily avoidable unless there is some mitigating circumstance.”
Boykin said the issue is whether the chain of command would be doing this if it were not for his outspoken Christian faith and his unwillingness to compromise on what he believes.
“It seems to me that the chain of command has failed to deter him from his beliefs and has resorted to this step now,” he said.
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