A disgraced Marine who was discharged for misconduct surrounding a bible verse will have her case appealed by the military’s highest court today.
Former LCPL Monifa J. Sterling was given a bad-conduct discharge following a series of events in 2013 that culminated into a dispute between Sterling and her superiors over a religious saying posted in her workspace.
According to The Washington Post, the Marine veteran’s advocacy group — known as the Defenders of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act– say that the lower court’s refusal to view all the evidence in the case “left the rights of the servicemember severely unprotected”, according to attorney Paul Clement.
The case is the first of its kind to reach the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, upping the ante on the case and raising possibilities for new precedents and policies.
“It’s a historic case, a precedent-setting case,” said Mike Berry, senior counsel and director of military affairs at First Liberty Institute, which is representing Sterling. “This is really the first time a military court has addressed the issue of whether (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) applies to all people serving in the military and this case may very well serve as precedent for decades.”
Sterling was found guilty in 2013 after refusing to remove three signs at her workstation reading “no weapon formed against me shall prosper” at the order of her Staff Sergeant. When she refused, the NCO took them down. Sterling put them back up the next day.
Last year, an appeals judge upheld the lower court’s ruling, and agreed “the orders to remove the signs were lawful because the signs could be interpreted as combative and could be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.”
Given the nature of her discharge, Sterling is ineligible for benefits from the VA due to a less than honorable discharge. The case could potentially reverse that burden.
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