Former Air Force chaplain claims he was discriminated against for preaching sermon against sexual immorality

Chaplain Curt Cizek says the Pentagon violated his rights to religious freedom

After 28 years of U.S. military service, embattled former Air Force Chaplain Curt Cizek is still fighting for his religious rights in the aftermath of a sermon he delivered more than seven years ago that upended his life.

The ordeal began in February of 2013 while Cizek was serving at the basic training center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

"I preached a sermon, according to my constitutionally-protected religious beliefs, on 'do not commit adultery,'" Cizek told Fox News, insisting that the Scripture passage that he read was straightforward and that he further depicted it to mean "if you are having sex with someone with whom you are not married then you need to stop."

The sermon came at an especially sensitive time when the base was still reeling from the fallout of a widescale sex scandal. Following a complaint dating back to 2009, an investigation was opened by military authorities in 2011. After months of combing through evidence and testimonies, more than 60 cadets were alleged to have been victimized or abused – with accusations ranging from rape to solicitation of improper sexual relations – by some 20 male instructors during and after basic training.

By June 2012, one staff sergeant made a plea deal and was sentenced to 90 days imprisonment, followed by 30 days of hard labor, and had his rank and pay slashed. Another staff sergeant was slapped with 20 years in jail – convicted on all 28 counts of rape, aggravated sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault – and two years later was found dead in a cell in an apparent suicide.


Three other staff sergeants were also convicted of wrongdoing related to sexual misconduct, abuse of authority and obstructing justice – and were given punishments that varied from 30 days to 2.5 years in prison, as well as rank and salary reductions. Several others were investigated, but no charges were brought, and many others had their cases tossed out or overturned.

Former U.S. military chaplain, Curt Cizek with his wife and son before an Iraq deployment 

Former U.S. military chaplain, Curt Cizek with his wife and son before an Iraq deployment 

Cizek believed that by addressing the taboo topic of sexual misconduct he was endeavoring to bring healing to a still shaken and wounded airbase. 

But days later, Cizek claims, he received word that a lesbian trainee had lodged a complaint about his sermon, accusing him of declaring that "all homosexuals are going to burn in hell."

However, Cizek vowed that he never uttered such a thing, and of the 2,500 people at the congregation, that was the only complaint he had been made aware of. 

Moreover, Cizek insisted that the only reference he made to the matter during the sermon was prior to the adultery comment, when he said "the church has gotten a reputation for being prejudiced because we often look at one sexual sin (homosexuality) and say that it is wrong but then turn a blind eye to heterosexual sin," emphasizing that seemed "hypocritical."

"Clearly, my sermon was extraordinarily fair and balanced," Cizek maintained. "We were in the midst of the sexual scandal where female trainees were being propositioned by their instructors to have inappropriate relationships involving sex. My goal was to help correct that by teaching on the biblical teaching about sexuality."

The Annex Gate is seen at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

The Annex Gate is seen at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. (Reuters)

Nonetheless, he said that the following week he was "verbally counseled by all the chaplains in my chain of command."

"I thought that the issue was done, but they waited a few months and removed me from working in basic training at the end of May 2013," Cizek said. "My performance report was downgraded. The next year my performance report was downgraded again, along with my promotion recommendation, which caused me to be passed over for promotion twice and involuntarily separated from the Air Force in 2016."


In July 2013 – while deployed to Afghanistan – he filed complaints with the inspector general, the reprisal inspector general and the Board for the Correction of Military Records (BCMR), as well as a congressional complaint. 

"The investigators have failed to do their jobs, leaving portions of my case without being investigated and witnesses without being interviewed," Cizek argued.

According to Cizek, there were powerful forces under the previous commander in chief, then-President Barak Obama, that botched and buried his case, including several now-retired four-star and two-star generals and two current two-star generals.

"Why did my case with the Board for the Correction of Military Records take three years to decide when by law it is supposed to be decided in nine to 18 months? I had to write to the White House in 2018 and 2019 to get the Air Force to speed up the process," Cizek said. "They were going to try to make my case drag out as long as possible. Also, they did not evaluate any of the evidence that I presented. My case involves constitutional law protections and the Air Force had [its personnel] making legal determinations."

Cizek, now based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1991, serving four years active duty in the Army, three years in the National Guard and four years in the reserves, all the while hearing a deeper calling.

"I went to seminary, graduating in 2001 while serving in the reserves and later joined the Air Force as a chaplain – endorsed by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod," he said. "I commissioned as a chaplain in 2007 because I wanted to use my military experience to serve our great men and women in uniform."

Chaplain Cizek handing out stuffed animal to Iraq child

Chaplain Cizek handing out stuffed animal to Iraq child

Years on, Cizek emphasized that he won't surrender his fight, pledging to have been caught up in the crossfire of political correctness.

In October, the case was re-opened by the Air Force weeks after Col. William Vaughn, the senior military assistant to headquarters Air Force director of staff, characterized it to him in a phone call as "the most egregious case of injustice' that he has witnessed in his years of working as a legislative liaison," Cizek claimed.

But that avenue was also abruptly shuttered. A "Congressional Inquiry Complete" email dated Nov. 5 from the secretary of the Air Force Office of Legislative Liaison, viewed by Fox News, confirmed the case was closed with no further action.

A spokesperson for the Air Force affirmed in a statement that there was no indication of wrongful treatment in Cizek's case. While the case is closed, "the individual can always reapply if there is new and relevant information. Otherwise, he can go to the federal court of appeals," the representative said.


Having already lost hundreds of thousands in personal income, expenses and benefits – and paying upwards of $20,000 annually to cover the medical bills of his wife, who suffers from a host of autoimmune diseases and thus can't work– the prospect of propelling the matter legally in the hopes it would be taken up by the federal court seemed unrealistic.

Instead, Cizek remains hopeful that a last-ditch political solution will materialize before President Trump leaves office. And a sliver of hope in his case, he said, came last Monday when a senior investigator from the Department of Defense phoned to say he had reviewed the case history and "agreed that my chain of command overreached." Cizek gave a deposition on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said they do not confirm nor deny the existence of investigations.


For Cizek, there is more at stake than his personal and professional credibility – he believes the case is about protecting one's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.

"I would like to be reinstated back to active duty at the rank (lieutenant colonel) my peers have attained with all of the back pay that I am due. I simply want to be able to serve God and our country," Cizek added. "The truth of the Bible is also on the line. Cancel culture believes that speaking an inconvenient truth is intolerable. The real bigotry that exists today is preventing people from exercising their religious beliefs and freedom of speech."