A retired military veteran is seeking legal action after he was suspended from his job for using “God bless America” as his email signature.
“I believe in America, and I believe in God so strongly,” veteran Boots Hawks told KCRA. “And I believe that America needs a blessing.”
Boots Hawks served as an Army soldier for 20 years, before he retiring and taking a job at Dameron Hospital in Stockton, Calif., 10 years ago.
Hawks was called into his supervisor’s office earlier this month and asked to have the phrase “God bless America” removed from his email signature. The veteran says he complied but notified his supervisors that he would be consulting with an attorney about his right to keep the phrase.
The next day, Hawks found out he was placed on leave for “insubordination” days before Veterans Day.
Hawks contacted the Pacific Justice Institution, who took his case and wrote a letter to the hospital demanding an apology.
“Rarely to we see something as shocking as supervisors placing a hard-working military veteran on leave right before Veterans’ Day for saying something patriotic,” PJI President Brad Daus said. “The hospital’s actions were outrageous and illegal. We expect a swift apology and full restoration of Mr. Hawks’ rights.”
Dameron Hospital has since agreed to restore the lost pay from the time when Hawks was on leave and said Hawks’ would not be punished, according to PJI. But hospital officials still insist that Hawks refrain from including “God bless America” in his email signature. The hospital has not said why they insist on banning the phrase.
Daus says while the hospital has done the right thing by restoring Hawks’ lost pay, it still “have a long way to go toward making this right.”
“We will continue to press for fair and equal treatment of Mr. Hawks’ speech,” he added. “No one — least of all a veteran — should be censored for fear that someone will be offended by their patriotism.”
Hawks says Dameron provides “fantastic care to people” and he would “hate to see bad publicity” for the hospital.
“I just see that we need to have justice done,” Hawks said.