For U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Philip Monk, it’s been a roller coaster year. The 19-year veteran became the face of the war on religious freedom when he refused to answer his lesbian unit commander’s question on the merits of homosexual “marriage.” As a result, he was not only relieved of his duties, but threatened with a court martial, jail time and loss of retirement benefits.

Now, almost a year later, notes OneNewsNow, the same Pentagon that seemingly wanted to destroy Monk’s career is giving him military honors.

Master Sgt. Monk (Liberty Institute photo)

Master Sgt. Monk (Liberty Institute photo)

Sgt. Monk first came into the national spotlight when he told the newspaper Military Times that he had been relieved of his position as first sergeant at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, when he disagreed with his homosexual commanding office about the proper punishment for a subordinate airman who had expressed religious objections to homosexuality. That conversation between Monk and Major Elisa Valenzuela revealed that Monk, too, held similar views.

Military officials claimed Monk was not punished and was set to be transferred to another unit, but Monk told Military Times he was punished for his beliefs. “I was relieved of my position because I do not agree with my commander’s position on gay marriage,” he told the military newspaper,

Todd Starnes of Fox News broke the story about Monk’s punishment after Starnes was contacted by the sergeant’s pastor. Starnes also reported on the threat of court martial against Monk and how the threats against Monk became ever more harrowing as he stuck to his principles.

“Any service member will tell you if you violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you can be court martialed,” his attorney told Fox News. “And the potential result of a court martial is being dishonorably discharged from the military and spending time in a military brig potentially.” So the situation became increasingly severe for Monk.

However, the same code of justice prohibits retaliation against service members for filing a complaint against a commanding officer, which his attorneys at the Liberty Institute pointed out, making his case a matter of religious freedom.

Now Sgt. Monk is being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, which is authorized by the President for “outstanding service to the United States.”

It “seems to be a gesture of goodwill from the Air Force in the hopes that the controversy over Monk’s religious beliefs will go away,” observes Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “Among other things, Monk’s award recognizes his vigilance and mindfulness in management — as well as his oversight of the largest sexual assault case in Basic Military Training history.

“For the Monk family, which has endured so much at the hands of the Obama administration, it was a significant victory — not just for Phillip, but for every service member standing up for their Christian beliefs.

“And while the honor was well deserved,” noted Perkins, “it can’t hide the underlying problem, which was the brazen attack on Monk’s free speech rights. After the commanding officer – an open lesbian – filed a false discrimination complaint against Monk, what happened to her?

“Will she face disciplinary action for abusing her authority to push her personal agenda on others? If military members aren’t supposed to disagree with same-sex ‘marriage,’ then why are commanding officers allowed to shill in favor of it?

“This kind of double standard has no place in a military that should be open to both opinions – or those with none. The chilling effect of her actions on religious freedom needs to thaw — and the only way

to do that is to apply heat so that Christians like Monk are reassured they can truly live out their faith without fear.

The stripes of airman (U.S. Air Force photo)

The stripes of airman (U.S. Air Force photo)

“In the meantime,” says Perkins, “we celebrate with the Monks that the military finally recognized what his superior did not: The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Sergeant Monk reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.