Making the rounds yesterday was the news that the Marines slapped a court martial upon a young Marine simply for posting a biblical verse at her workstation.
A Marine thought she was just doing what others she worked with did; she decorated her work station. In her case, Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling printed out some quotes that gave her encouragement and taped them to her computer.
But while others were allowed to keep their decorations, Sterling was ordered by a supervisor to take hers down. Why? She had posted Christian scripture verses, including a slightly altered one from Isaiah 54:17, reports The Christian Post:
How about no. First, Sterling has already been court martialed. And convicted. And had her appeal denied. What Sterling is currently doing is attempting another appeal, again using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a basis to overturn her conviction. Good luck with that. I get why The Liberty Institute would join this appeal- it’s what they do. And ordinarily I’m on board with their goals. But this is an extremely weak case, and a not at all sympathetic client.
Sterling was most certainly not court martialed for posting biblical verses. She was court martialed for a variety of charges, essentially for disobeying lawful orders. From that IJR article linked above Mike Berry of The Liberty Institute:
“Restricting a Marine’s free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional. If a service member has a right to display a secular poster, put an atheist bumper sticker on their car or get a Star of David tattoo, then Lance Corporal Sterling has the right to display a small Bible verse on her computer monitor.”
But that’s just it- it is not her computer monitor. It is the United States government’s computer monitor. And like it or not, the government gets to decide what you can or cannot tape to its property. Therefore, the order to remove the verse (which, by the way, she never even told her chain of command was a religious statement) was lawful and proper. And as the appeals court noted when it comes to what is or is not a lawful order:
Military orders are presumed to be lawful and are disobeyed at the subordinate’s peril.
The appeals court does a fair analysis why Sterling has no claim under RFRA. RFRA is not a magical incantation that allows one to do whatever one wishes, neither in the civilian world, nor most certainly in the military.
Furthermore, Sterling was also charged with and convicted of multiple counts of failure to obey lawful orders in regards to changing into the proper uniform of the day, and of failing to obey lawful orders to hand out passes for a function on post.
You can read for yourself the appeals court decision here.
Reading between the lines just a little, Sterling certainly appears to me as one of those (fortunately rare) members who simply thinks the rules that apply to others don’t, or at least shouldn’t, apply to her. They say that as a leader, you spend 90% of your time on 10% of your people. And it is apparent that she was one that simply existed to suck up leadership’s valuable time, as opposed to contributing to the unit accomplishing its mission.