Tags: Religion | marine | court-martial | bible | verses | Monifa Sterling

Marine, Demoted and Discharged for Bible Verses, to Fight Verdict

By    |   Wednesday, 27 May 2015 10:38 AM

A Christian Marine corporal, who was demoted and kicked out of the Corps with a bad conduct discharge for displaying Bible verses at her computer work station, isn't giving up the fight, and she now has some powerful allies.

Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling was convicted of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a senior commissioned officer and disobeying on four occasions a lawful direct order stemming from her refusal to remove three small Bible quotations from her desk, including a paraphrase of Isaiah 54:17, "No weapons formed against me shall prosper," Fox News reports.

At her Feb. 1 court-martial last year at Camp Lejune, North Carolina, the military court found that the biblical quote could "easily been seen as contrary to good order and discipline," and added, "Maintaining discipline and morale in the military work center could very well require that the work center remain relatively free of divisive or contentious issues such as personal beliefs, religion, politics, etc.," Fox News reported.

Her rank was reduced to private and she was given a bad conduct discharge, which hurt her chances at finding employment and makes her ineligible to receive veteran benefits, The Washington Post reported.

Sterling represented herself at her court-martial, but in an appeal the former corporal has some legal heavyweights on her side — the Liberty Institute and Paul Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General and law professor at Georgetown University who won the Supreme Court case against Obamacare filed by Hobby Lobby — and they are appealing her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the highest military court, Christian Today reports.

Mike Berry, Liberty Institute's director of military affairs and senior counsel, told Christian Today, "If the government can order a Marine not to display a Bible verse, they could try and order her not to get a religious tattoo or go to church on Sunday. 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."

The Navy-Marine Corps appeals court upheld the original verdict, stating, "Military orders are presumed to be lawful and are disobeyed at the subordinate’s peril," the Post reported.

But Berry said that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and new religious freedom instructions issued by the Pentagon last year, Sterling's actions should have been protected, the Post reported.

"The standard applies inside the military as outside the military," he said. "The same standard that applies to federal employees applies to military employees as well."

The Pentagon's instructions state, "In so far as practicable, a Service member’s expression of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) may not be used as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training or assignment."

Berry told Fox News he believes the additional charges against Sterling were trumped up to cover "a conflict between her and her supervisor."

Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser told Fox News, "This is a very scary time when you are not allowed to have a very small printed Bible verse in your own personal workspace because it might offend other Marines."

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A Christian Marine corporal, who was demoted and kicked out of the Corps with a bad conduct discharge for displaying Bible verses at her computer work station, isn't giving up the fight, and she now has some powerful allies.
marine, court-martial, bible, verses, Monifa Sterling
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2015-38-27
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 10:38 AM
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