Ryan Berry

August 3, 1999

More than 75 House members have signed a letter urging the Air Force to honor the religious convictions of First Lieutenant Ryan Berry. He expressed his concern over serving overnight duty alone with a woman in a missile launch bunker and has been punished by his commander.

You may have heard the story of Ryan Berry, but let me briefly summarize his concerns. He is a married officer who asked for a religious accommodation. He believed that serving alone with a woman in the intimate confines of a bunker violated Catholic teachings against "the occasion of sin." The bunker is about the size of a bus, and has only one bed which is used by one officer while the other is on duty.

Originally when Lt. Berry asked for an accommodation, one was granted by his commanding officer. But then his superiors revoked the exception when male and female colleagues complained. Then his wing commander actually punished Lt. Berry by issuing a failing office performance report that will most likely keep this West Point graduate from a promotion to captain and effectively end his career.

The letter from members of the House argues that "While we are committed to assisting the Air Force in meeting its recruitment goals, we fear that their lack of accommodation for religious beliefs could discourage men and women of faith from pursuing careers in the military." A lawyer for Lt. Berry not only says there was a lack of accommodation, but also accused two commanders of making "anti-Catholic statements" to Lt. Berry's fellow officers.

Recently I wrote a commentary about women in submarines and received a number of e-mail messages from men in the Navy validating my concerns. This situation with Lt. Berry is similar. Putting a man and a women in a confining space is asking for trouble, but the only one in trouble is Lt. Berry for pointing out the obvious.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.