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Catholic officer sues US Air Force for religious discrimination

A Catholic soldier has brought suit against the US Air Force, saying that he has been punished for seeking an accommodation of his religious beliefs.

Captain Ryan Berry has asked a US district court in Washington for relief from the punitive actions he has suffered since he expressed concerns about an assignment in which he would have shared quarters with a female officer.

Berry has also asked the court to order Air Force officials to clear his service record of all negative comments caused by his "constitutionally-protected requests for accommodation of his religious exercise."

The lawsuit, brought by Captain Berry with the support of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty-- a Washington-based group dedicated to the protection of religious freedom-- comes after four years of efforts to resolve the matter through Air Force administrative channels.

During an assignment, Berry, who is married, expressed misgivings about sharing accommodation with a female office, explaining that he wanted to avoid any situation in which he could "develop inappropriate intimacy-- even platonic-- with a woman who is not his wife." He explained that these concerns were an outgrowth of his religious principles as a devout Catholic.

For months, commanding officers agreed to accommodate Berry's concerns, and did not assign him alongside a female office. But in December 1998 he was informed that "there will not be any future accommodation of this religious practice." He was later suspended from his position, and remarks about his "unprofessional" attitude were placed in his permanent personnel record.

The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty | Ryan Berry Fact Sheet | lawsuit (PDF) | news release
US Air Force | Air Force reassigns ICBM crewmember (6/8/99)

Catholic World News

3 Sep 2002