STOCKTON, CA — A hospital in California that recently put a retired military veteran on leave after he asked to speak with an attorney about their request to remove ‘God bless America’ from his email signature has partially rescinded its actions following a national outcry over the matter.
As previously reported, Dameron Hospital employee Boots Hawks was called into his supervisor’s office earlier this month and asked to remove the phrase from his email, which is one of three that he posts with his signature. “Excuses only satisfy the person making them” and “Change is either induced by inspiration or desperation” are also displayed on each email.
“I believe in America, and I believe in God so strongly,” Hawks told local television station KCRA. “And I believe that America needs a blessing.”
While Hawks complied with the directive, he also told his supervisor that he wanted to consult with an attorney about his rights.
Much to his surprise, Hawks was put on leave for “insubordination.” He returned to work this Wednesday to find that the combination on his lock had been changed and his computer password had been suspended.
As Hawks had contacted the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the organization sent a letter to the hospital, demanding that it recant its actions. It noted that Hawks has been on staff for ten years and was once named “Employee of the Year.” He had served twenty years in the Army, earning the rank of Sergeant First Class.
“Rarely do we see something as shocking as supervisors placing a hard-working military veteran on leave right before Veterans’ Day for saying something patriotic,” stated PJI President Brad Dacus. “The hospital’s actions were outrageous and illegal. We expect a swift apology and full restoration of Mr. Hawks’ rights.”
As reports of the incident broke nationwide, the hospital provided further information to PJI, and is partially recanting the reasons for putting Hawks on leave. The organization reported on Friday that a Dameron human resource official advised that Mr. Hawks was no longer considered to be insubordinate, but state that he may have been “disrespectful.” The hospital agreed to restore the lost pay from the time when Hawks was on leave, and advised that no punishment would be implied.
However, Dameron officials continue to insist that Mr. Hawks refrain from including “God bless America” in his email signature. A reason for the ban on the phrase has not yet been provided.
“We view the hospital’s response as a retreat from some of their earlier positions, but clearly they have a long way to go toward making this right,” Dacus stated. “We will continue to press for fair and equal treatment of Mr. Hawks’ speech. No one—least of all a veteran—should be censored for fear that someone will be offended by their patriotism.”
Hawks said that he appreciates the hospital and does not wish to speak poorly of his place of employment, but feels that the situation is unjust.
“I don’t mean this to be bad publicity,” he told reporters. “I just see that we need to have justice done.”