Boots Hawks served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, earning the rank of Sergeant First Class.
He's also a hospital quality analyst — and apparently a good one. A decade-long staffer with Dameron Hospital in Stockton, Calif., Hawks was once named “Employee of the Year,” the Christian News Network notes.
Being a veteran with two decades of service — one who says, "I believe in America and I believe in God so strongly," reports KCRA-TV in Sacramento — you may find it unsurprising that Hawks has used a familiar signature on his hospital emails: "God Bless America."
Hawks had been using the signature for more than year, he told KCRA, without any problems.
But last week, just before Veterans Day, hospital brass asked Hawks to remove his "God Bless America" signature from his hospital emails, KCRA reported.
While Hawks said he complied ("I removed the signature before I sent another email," Hawks told KCRA), he said he also told his supervisor that he wanted to consult with an attorney about his rights, according to the Christian News Network.
Then things heated way up.
Hawks said he was placed on administrative leave for insubordination last Friday, noted KCRA.
"I was shocked," Hawks told KCRA. “I think Dameron Hospital provides fantastic care to people. And I hate to see bad publicity, and I don’t mean for this to be bad publicity. I just see that we need to have justice done.”
Hawks said he was asked to return to work the day after Veterans Day, KCRA noted; but the Christian News Network said Hawks returned to work Wednesday — to find that the combination on his lock had been changed and his computer password had been suspended.
Hawks made good on his previous intentions, contacting the Pacific Justice Institute, a legal group that now represents him, KCRA noted.
"We are aware that other members of the hospital management circulate mass emails which include philosophical statements," Matt McReynolds, the attorney handling the case, in a letter to Dameron Hospital, noted KCRA. "We know of no legal authority that would justify your censorship."
KCRA contacted Dameron Hospital for an explanation — and to see if its policy forbids such email signatures — but the station said the hospital hasn't returned calls. The Christian News Network noted that PJI had not received a response from the hospital, either.
“Rarely do we see something as shocking as supervisors placing a hard-working military veteran on leave right before Veterans’ Day for saying something patriotic,” stated PJI President Brad Dacus. “The hospital’s actions were outrageous and illegal. We expect a swift apology and full restoration of Mr. Hawks’ rights.”
For Hawks' part, he just wants to be allowed to place "God Bless America" back in his email signature.
But for now, KCRA noted, he's leaving it off.
Here's a report from KCRA: