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Supreme Court declines to hear Marine bad conduct discharge case over bible verse

Monica Sterling Marine
Photo by Wynona Benson Photography/Courtesy of Liberty Institute.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review First Liberty Institute’s appeal in the case of Lance Corporal , a U.S. Marine convicted at court-martial for refusing an order to remove an inspirational Bible verse from her workstation.

“Because the Supreme Court did not decide to review the case, the travesty below by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will now stand,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO & Chief Counsel for First Liberty. “The military court’s outrageous decision means federal judges and military officials can strip our service members of their constitutional rights just because they don’t think someone’s religious beliefs are important enough to be protected. Our service members deserve better.”

Lance Corporal Sterling was convicted at a court-martial after she refused an order to remove a paraphrase of an inspirational Bible verse (“No weapon formed against me shall prosper” from Isaiah 54:17). Sterling had posted the verse in her workspace and reposted it after her supervisor removed and threw it in the trash. Trial evidence revealed that other Marines were permitted to display personal items in their workspaces.

However, court-martial records against Sterling paint a very different picture of the Marine; they show that she blatantly refused to follow orders several times.

After a trial court ruled against Sterling, she appealed to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, but the appeals court also ruled against her. First Liberty Institute stepped in and appealed Sterling’s case to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces — the nation’s highest military court. On August 10, 2016, the CAAF ruled against Sterling. First Liberty appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 23, 2016.

Shackelford added, “We had hoped the Court would review this case, but we will now work even harder to ensure our nation’s brave service members do not lose their religious freedom.”

In the past five years, First Liberty’s Military Affairs Division has successfully resolved five major matters vindicating the religious rights of service members and their families against violations of those rights. First Liberty is currently representing other service members.

Read more about the case at SterlingFacts.com.

SOURCE First Liberty Institute
USMC Life contributed to the article.

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  1. The whole thing is shameful and disrespectful to everyone who stands in front of our flag and says so help me God.

  2. There is a distinct line between having religious convictions and promoting them while in uniform or performing one’s duty. Sterling crossed that line. She violated the rules. She disobeyed her superiors who told her to follow the rules. The Marine Corps was right to give her a BCD.


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