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Air Force Retiree Loses Case Over Ministry Work

(CN) - An early Air Force retiree lost his bid to have his work as a youth minister count toward his years of service in order to obtain full military retirement. The 6th Circuit backed the government's refusal to credit jobs involving religion.

When Linden Bowman retired, he had 17 years and three months of service in the Air Force. Full military retirement requires 20 years of service.

After retiring, Bowman began working as a youth minister for the People's Church of C&MA in Geneva, Ohio. He asked the government to credit this work toward his retirement, but then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused. He cited a regulation specifically prohibiting credit for employment with "religious organizations engaged in religious activities, unless such activities are unrelated to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytization."

Bowman said this rule violated his First and 14th Amendment rights.

But U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, sitting by designation on the three-judge panel, upheld the government's regulation.

"The withholding of a retirement credit for Bowman's work as a youth minister does not burden his right to practice or adhere to his religious beliefs."

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