Oscar Rodriguez Thrown from Air Force Base for Referencing “God” in Speech-Disputed!

Oscar Rodriguez Thrown from Air Force Base for Referencing “God” in Speech-Disputed!

Summary of eRumor:
A decorated veteran named Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., was invited to give a speech at a flag folding ceremony held at an Air Force base but was dragged off stage for referencing “God.”
The Truth:
Facts related to Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., being removed from an Air Force flag folding ceremony aren’t clear at this point.
The situation unfolded at a retirement ceremony for Master Sergeant Charles “Chuck” Roberson in April 2016 at Travis Air Force Base. Video shows Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., stand to deliver a speech while two officers folded a flag during the ceremony. After delivering the opening lines, however, Roberson was pulled from the room by a number of uniformed soldiers from the audience:

Our flag is known as the stars and stripes. The union consists of white stars on a blue field (sic) the new constellation. Each star represents one individual state, and together they stand united indivisible, the stripes represent the original 13 colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776 …

The story went viral in June after First Liberty, a legal organization “dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans,” took up the case. In a letter to Air Force Major General John C. Flournoy, First Liberty alleged that:

Upon discovering he lacked the authority to prevent Mr. Rodriguez—an invited guest—from attending the retirement ceremony as a guest, Lt Col Sovitsky informed retired MSgt Roberson he did not want Mr. Rodriguez to participate in the retirement ceremony as a speaker. Retired MSgt Roberson insisted that, as the retiring member, he desired that Mr. Rodriguez participate and offer the flag-folding speech. When relaying this information to Mr. Rodriguez, retired MSgt Roberson re-iterated his strong desire that Mr. Rodriguez participate as requested. In the days leading up to the April 3 retirement ceremony, both retired MSgt Roberson and Mr. Rodriguez attempted to work with members of the 749th AMXS command in order to resolve any issues. Retired MSgt Roberson and Mr. Rodriguez even went so far as to offer to place “warning signs” on the auditorium doors explaining that the word “God” would be uttered during the retirement ceremony. Retired MSgt Roberson’s retirement ceremony occurred as scheduled, with family, friends, and colleagues in attendance. In accordance with retired MSgt Roberson’s wishes, Mr. Rodriguez attended and sat in a prominent position that permitted him to perform the flag-folding speech at the appointed time. Towards the conclusion of the ceremony, there was a slide show with music and photos depicting various events throughout retired MSgt Roberson’s career. The flag-folding ceremony occurred after the slide show. Two Airmen who volunteered to perform the flag-folding ceremony took their positions. As Mr. Rodriguez stood to assume his position, Technical Sergeant (hereinafter, “TSgt”) Al Hall, a member of the 749th AMXS, approached Mr. Rodriguez and warned him not to perform the flag-folding speech. Desiring to keep his word and honor his colleague, Mr. Rodriguez stood fast and, as he began his flag-folding speech, TSgt Hall, assaulted Mr. Rodriguez by forcibly grabbing him. Moments later, 749th AMXS members Chief Master Sergeant (hereinafter, “CMSgt”) Antonio Cordes, CMSgt Denis Tharpe, and SMSgt Joe Bruno, immediately joined TSgt Hall’s assault and the group (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “four NCOs”) physically dragged Mr. Rodriguez out of the Building 185 Auditorium.

For his part, Master Sergeant Charles Roberson has confirmed in a video uploaded to YouTube by First Liberty that he asked Oscar Rodriguez to deliver the speech during the flag-folding portion of his retirement ceremony: “That the Air Force would do this to myself as this was my retirement – I was very embarrassed and humiliated in front of my family and friends,” Roberson said.
What’s not clear, however, is exactly why Oscar Rodriguez was not allowed to deliver the speech. The Air Force has rejected accusations that Oscar Rodriguez was not allowed to speak or was dragged from the room for referencing God, Stars and Stripes reports:

The Air Force said Tuesday it was still preparing a response to allegations regarding the incident. But a spokeswoman said that while there is a non-religious flag-folding script for official military ceremonies, Air Force personnel are entitled to use a religious script for a retirement ceremony.

“Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag-folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored and represents the member’s views, not those of the Air Force,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. “The Air Force places the highest value on the rights of its personnel in matters of religion and facilitates the free exercise of religion by its members.”

Given that the reason for why Oscar Rodriguez was not allowed to deliver the flag folding address are disputed and tied up in legal action, we’re calling this one “disputed” for now.