Retired Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez says he was removed from a military retirement ceremony for saying the word God on April 3, 2016, at Travis Air Force Base in California. A video (below) of the incident was released by Rodriguez's lawyers at the First Liberty Institute on June 20.
In the video, Rodriguez, dressed in a suit, steps next to servicemen who are folding an American flag at Master Sergeant Charles Roberson retirement ceremony. Air Force service members are seen quickly escorting Rodriguez out as he gives his speech. It's unclear if he says the word "God," but was apparently intending to.
A flag-folding speech has been a tradition at military services for a number of years, according to Breitbart. The speech historically has made several references to God:
Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempts to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery. It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America ... God bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.
In 2005, the Pentagon eliminated those references.
Roberson reportedly asked Rodriguez to give his traditional flag-folding speech with the word "God" during his (Roberson's) retirement ceremony.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sovitsky learned about Rodriguez's planned speech and opposed it because of the religious references, but Roberson insisted Rodriguez deliver it, according to a June 20 demand letter from the First Liberty Institute.
Roberson and Rodriguez attempted to obtain permission from higher authorities at Travis Air Force Base, and offered to place written notices outside the ceremony to warn attendees that the word "God" would be mentioned, notes the First Liberty Institute.
Roberson and Rodriguez allege that they never received a response from the higher ups, but Rodriguez decided to go through with his speech, according to the Texas-based religious freedom law firm.
The First Liberty Institute called on the Air Force to issue an apology to Rodriguez, admit that his civil rights were violated, say in writing that Rodriguez is welcome on the base and can express his free speech, and punish the service members who dragged him out.
An Air Force Reserve official told Fox News in April: "Rodriguez ignored numerous requests to respect the Air Force prescribed ceremony and unfortunately was forcibly removed. We will continue to investigate the situation fully."