Judge Upholds Court Martial of Former Marine Over Bible Verses


Former Marine Monifa Sterling had taped a Bible verse up in three places around her desk at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and was court-martialed for refusing orders to take it down.

After being demoted in rank, Sterling was given a bad-conduct discharge.   She challenged the decision, based on the religious freedom act.

Wednesday, in a 4-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces ruled that her religious rights were not violated, claiming that her action was “less an exercise of religion than an act of insubordination.”

Washington, D.C. – The military’s highest court ruled yesterday that men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces can be punished for exercising their religion if judges deem the practice not religiously “important.” The ruling upholds the government’s criminal prosecution of a U.S. Marine for refusing to discard personal notes that had Bible verses on them. The case may now be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2014, Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was ordered to remove from her workstation three pieces of paper with a paraphrase from the Book of Isaiah, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” even though co-workers were permitted to keep nonreligious messages on their desks. She declined and was court-martialed. A lower court upheld Sterling’s court martial, rejecting her argument that her faith was protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

According to the ruling the Sterling wasn’t able to convince them that she had enough real belief in her religion, so the Bible verse wasn’t important enough to be allowed:

The majority of judges on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Lance Corporal Sterling’s posted verses were a “religious exercise” under RFRA and assumed that the exercise was sincere. But it held that, despite the court-martial Sterling faced for refusing to remove the verses, the military hadn’t placed a “substantial burden” on her religion because the court was not persuaded that she had a “subjective belief in the importance of [the] practice to her religion.”


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