The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on Wednesday evening dismissed the case of former Marine Monifa Sterling, who was court-martialed for posting a Bible verse in her workstation and refusing to take it down.
First Liberty, a religious liberty organization, has pledged to appeal the opinion in United States v. Sterling to the Supreme Court.
“This is absolutely outrageous,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said in a press release. “A few judges decided they could strip a Marine of her constitutional rights just because they didn’t think her beliefs were important enough to be protected. If they can court-martial a Marine over a Bible verse, what’s to stop them from punishing service members for reading the Bible, talking about their faith, or praying?”
“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,” Shackelford added. “We will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. This cannot be allowed to stand.”
In 2013, Sterling, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune, decided to disobey the order of a superior to remove three Bible verses posted in her workstation. One modified quotation from Isaiah read: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
The superior, referring to the verses, apparently “did not like their tone.” But Sterling declined to remove the verses, so her superior snatched off the verses and threw them in the garbage.
Sterling was then court-martialed in 2014 on charges of disrespecting an officer and disobeying a lawful order. Since she has been discharged, she cannot receive certain benefits like the G.I. bill.
Her appeal to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals was denied. Now that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has issued a similar reading, First Liberty intends to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court for a final determination. The organization says Sterling’s religious expressions is covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
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