COLUMBUS, Ohio — A faith-based article that centered on a military personnel’s personal testimony about how his faith in Christ keeps him grounded was recently removed from an Ohio Air National Guard newsletter after a fellow serviceman lodged a complaint about its “offending” content.
Col. Florencio Marquinez, the Commander of the Fighter Wing’s Medical Group, expressed his views in the September issue of “The Stinger” in an article entitled “Commander’s Comments: A Spiritual Journey as a Commander.”
“There have been many challenges and adversities along the way that really impacted my life,” he shared, after speaking about his appreciation for the Airman’s Creed. “It is my strong spiritual foundation that has kept the light shining on my path. I would not be the man I am today if isn’t wasn’t for my mother leading our whole family to Jesus Christ. Her creed to us five children growing up is God first in your life, then comes family and third, work.”
“My career both in the military and civilian world has brought many challenges and struggles, but one verse from the Bible that really helped me get through them is from Matthew 19:26, ‘With God, all things are possible,'” Marquinez continued. “So no matter how stressful your life can be with juggling family issues, relationships, career advancement, work, school or any burden that life throws your way, cast it upon the Lord and He will sustain you.”
He additionally noted that the national motto “In God We Trust” can essentially be found in the Scriptures, which urge men to trust in God.
But according to the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an unidentified service member complained about Marquinez’ article, claiming that it was “odious” and “offending.” In response to the complaint, Commander Col. Craig R. Baker ordered the newsletter to be republished without Marquinez’ piece.
ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue wrote in a report on the matter on Friday that he believes Baker’s actions run counter to the Constitution because they amount to censorship.
“[T]he government doesn’t get to tell us what we are allowed to say. Nor does it get to tell us what we are not allowed to say,” he outlined. “The Supreme Court has explained that, when the government allows discussion by others of certain topics in its publications, it is not allowed to impose restrictions that discriminate among viewpoints on those subjects. So, because the military allows discussions about ‘what has made your life better,’ ‘what helps you as you lead your troops,’ or secular psychological principles, it is not allowed to say that some answers are okay, while others aren’t.”
He said that Maquinez was simply sharing his life story, and that his views shouldn’t be forbidden just because they involve Christianity.
“Common sense tells us that it would be wrong, of course, for Col. Marquinez to order those under his command to attend church, or to follow Jesus. But that’s not what he did,” La Rue continued. “No: he merely said, Jesus has helped me, and if you have problems, you should consider letting Him help you, too. There’s nothing wrong or improper about that.”
“Col. Baker trampled Col. Marquienez’s First Amendment rights,” he concluded. “And in doing so, he tacitly sent a very dangerous message: if you’re a Christian, you can’t be a commander in the Ohio Air National Guard. Or, at the very least, you must keep your Christianity to yourself.”