In February 2014, Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling was convicted at a court-martial in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for not following orders to take down the verse "No weapons formed against me shall prosper" from her workstation.
The religious liberty law firm, Liberty Institute, and a former U.S. solicitor general and law professor Paul Clement have now taken up her case, Fox News reports. Clement recently won a Supreme Court case on behalf of Hobby Lobby against the Affordable Care Act.
Those now representing Sterling will argue in an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that the appellate court should have applied the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the case, which they say would have protected her right to post Bible verses as a form of religious exercise.
The appellate court’s decision stated it was unconvinced “that displaying religious text at a shared government workstation would be protected even in a civilian federal workplace,” and that displaying a Bible verse does not constitute a religious exercise.
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Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry said the supervisor who took issue with the verse’s display in May 2013 and ordered her to immediately remove the verse, which Sterling refused to do, believing it was her First Amendment right to display it. The next day, she found that the verse had been removed, Daily Mail reports.
“Restricting a Marine’s free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional,” Berry said.
A few months later, Sterling was accused of failing to wear an appropriate uniform, which was reportedly due to a medical condition. Sterling was then court-martialed in February 2014.
Documents from the court-martial state that “maintaining discipline and morale in the military work center could very well require that the work center remain relatively free of divisive or contentious issues such as personal beliefs, religion, politics, etc.”
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Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser countered that point, telling Fox News: “Our Marines are trained to deal with some of the most hostile people on the planet. I don’t think they are afraid of tiny words on a tiny piece of paper.”
Sterling was convicted at the court-martial of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeyind the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer, according to Fox News. She was given a reduction in rank from lance corporal to private and was discharged for bad conduct and is currently unemployed.
Photo Source: Liberty Institute via Fox News