In an unbelievable decision against First Amendment rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces upheld a lower court ruling against former U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling. Why? She posted a bible verse in three places of her workspace at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The verse from Isiah 54:17:
No weapon formed against you shall prosper.
The court ruled
We reject the argument that every interference with a religiously motivated act constitutes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion.
The situation began when Sterling’s superior was disturbed enough by her Christian belief to repeatedly order her to take the bible verse down. After asking why she should do so, he responded,
I don’t like the tone.
When she refused to remove the bible verse, he removed and trashed them. Although there is no evidence that it related to these incidents, her supervisor was her former drill instructor.
Because of her actions of refusing a direct order, Sterling was court-martialed, reduced to the lowest rank possible, and kicked out of the service with a bad-conduct discharge. The latter was a final insult as she will most likely lose all of the benefits given to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The issue here is
a federal law on religious freedom protects members of the Armed Forces. The intersection of free speech on government property, especially within a military context.
Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute which is representing Sterling said:
This is shameful, it’s wrong, and it sets a terrible precedent, jeopardizing the constitutional rights of every single man and woman in military service. We will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. This cannot be allowed to stand.
Wallbuilders is an “organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built.” They have listed on their website over 40 incidents where the U.S. military has against “people of Biblical faith”.
One of the most egregious occurred in April of this year when an Air Force veteran was assaulted and forcibly removed from a retirement ceremony for mentioning “God” in his remarks.
Fortunately, we have groups like First Liberty Institute who continue to protect our military personnel from the continuous assaults against their religious beliefs by the organization in which they serve.
We especially need them after the U.S. Army defined Christian ministry as ‘domestic hate group‘!