Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force ordered to stop banning Facebook users after USAF veteran sues


A US Air Force veteran who retired as a major has scored a victory against the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, after he was banned from commenting on the official Facebook page.

Richard Lee Rynearson III, who was silenced on the official page of Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, was reinstated after the USAF made a settlement with Rynearson.

The retired major was represented by The Center for Individual Rights, which is based in DC.

The Center for Individual Rights claimed in court that Bass exercised “viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment” by banning Rynearson.

“Comments were removed in November 2020 in compliance with the CMSAF Facebook comment policy in effect at that time,” an Air Force spokesperson told Stars and Stripes by email Friday. “The decision was made in an effort to encourage meaningful dialogue that does not detract from the Air Force’s efforts to prioritize taking care of the Airmen who are executing the Air Force’s garrison and warfighting missions.”

The comment in question regarded a Thanksgiving 2020 post, which read in part: “… there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for each of YOU. The people, Airmen and families, that make up the strongest Air Force in the world.”

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass listens to a briefing on the Enlisted Force Development, along with leadership at the 156th Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, May 14, 2022. CMSAF Bass spent time at the 156th Wing, which emphasized the importance of total force integration and overcoming challenges to more effectively accomplish the Air Force mission and be ready for the ever-evolving battlefield that future conflicts may hold. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eliezer Soto)

Rynearson mocked the post, inserting a picture of a Care Bear.

I am thankful the phrase ‘air power’ has now been replaced with #CarePower,” he wrote.

The comment was banned, and the lawsuit on the matter was filed the following year.

CIR President Terrence Pell took the matter into account, and agreed for CIR to represent the major.

“He was critical of some of the Air Forces policies,” Pell said. “And that’s fair. It was a legitimate opinion. The Air Force can’t treat him differently because he raises questions about Air Force policy.”

In 2003, Rynearson was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism after he flew his C-130U through “numerous anti-aircraft artillery attacks during a 2003 night mission in Iraq.


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