Marine discharged for Obama Facebook criticism
The Corps said Sgt. Gary Stein will be given an other-than-honorable discharge for violating Pentagon policy limiting speech of service members.T he San Diego-area Marine has served nearly 10 years in the Marine Corps. He has said he was exercising his free-speech rights.
The discharge will mean he loses all benefits.
A federal judge previously denied a request to block military discharge proceedings against Stein, who called Obama an enemy on Facebook.
U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff ruled then that the military has the right to respond to Stein's online comments in a case that has called into question the Pentagon's policies regarding social media and the limits regarding the speech of active duty military personnel.
Attorney J. Mark Brewer told Huff the entire process violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech and that federal courts have the right to uphold.
Huff disagreed, calling Stein's postings "truly troubling." Service members have had their speech limited since the Civil War, especially if their comments are believed to disrupt good order and discipline.
The judge pointed out Stein's March 1 comments on a Facebook page used by Marine Corps meteorologists in which the sergeant stated, "Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him."
The judge's ruling reaffirmed a military hearing earlier this month in which a military board has recommended Stein's dismissal. In that hearing, the government submitted screen grabs of Stein's postings on one Facebook page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, which the prosecutor said included the image of Obama on the "Jackass" movie poster. Stein also superimposed Obama's image on a poster for "The Incredibles" movie that he changed to "The Horribles," the prosecutor said.
The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief.
Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.
Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials.
Stein's lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union contend his views are protected by the First Amendment.
"Think about how dangerous this could be if the U.S. government can prosecute you for something you say on your private Facebook page," Stein's defense attorney Marine Capt. James Baehr said in the April 5 hearing.
Stein has said his opinions are his own and has put a disclaimer on his Facebook page saying so. His attorneys argued service members have a right to voice their opinions as long as they do not appear to be presenting their views as being endorsed by the military. They say the Pentagon policy is vague and military officials do not understand it.