WASHINGTON (Nov. 16)
The United States Army-Air Force Exchange Service fired an American Christian assigned to manage food facilities at Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya, because he refused to sign an anti-Israel visa declaration requested by the Libyan Government, Rep. Richard S. Schweiker, Pennsylvania Republican disclosed today.
Edward P. Hunt, of Bala, Pa., was reinstated with full back pay after Rep. Schweiker protested the firing to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. But the Defense and State Departments refused to protest to the Libyan authorities and indicated that the United States would continue requiring employees assigned to Libya to obey Libyan requirements. Rep. Schweiker said: “It is absolutely outrageous for any agency of the United States Government to fire an employee because he refuses to sign a declaration which he feels is anti-Semitic.”
Mr. Hunt, a 31-year-old food supervisor for the Defense Department, was transferred last April from Fort Belvoir, Va., to manage facilities at Wheelus Air Force base in Libya. When he arrived at the European Exchange Service headquarters in Nuremberg. Germany, en route to his Libyan assignment, Mr. Hunt was ordered, for the first time, to sign a Libyan visa application containing a discriminatory clause.
The application included a statement that “I know that, in case of obtaining any Israeli visa, my visa to Libya will be considered invalid.”
Mr. Hunt, a Roman Catholic, informed his superiors that he could not conscientiously sign an anti-Israeli declaration. He felt that an American citizen should be able to work at an American base anywhere in the world without committing himself not to visit the State of Israel.
“Due to my deep religious convictions concerning the Hebrew faith and its people, I cannot in conscience sign any statement contrary to my beliefs,” he told the Defense Department. When he persisted in refusing to sign the Libyan oath, Mr. Hunt was notified by Brig. Gen. John D. Hines, commanding general of the European U.S. Exchange System, that he was fired. Mr. Hunt had to pay his own return transportation from Germany to the United States. The U.S. Exchange Service deducted from his final pay the cost of transporting him to Germany en route to Libya.
Rep. Schweiker, a Protestant, learned of the case and protested to Secretary McNamara, The Defense Department then acted to reinstate Mr. Hunt with reimbursement of back pay and travel expenses, but sent someone else to the job at Wheclus Air Force base. State Department sources said no protest was made to Libya because of Moslem sensitivity on matters pertaining to Israel. The Army-Air Force Exchange Service will continue to accede to Libyan requirements, it was indicated.