A Marine who was court martialed after she refused to remove bible verses from her desk lost her federal appeal this week.
The ruling in Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling’s case said that the order was not a “substantial burden” on her First Amendment rights.
'We reject the argument that every interference with a religiously motivated act constitutes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion,' said the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the highest military court, in a 4-1 decision.
'In this case, the record does not clearly address whether (Sterling's) conduct was based on a "sincerely held religious belief" or motivated by animosity toward her chain of command,' it added.
'Military orders are presumed to be lawful and are disobeyed at the subordinate’s peril.'
But Sterling’s representation said the ruling was wrong.
'This is absolutely outrageous,' said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute.
'A few judges decided they could strip a Marine of her constitutional rights just because they didn't think her beliefs were important enough to be protected.'
Sterling had a modified version of Isaiah 54:17 on her desk in three areas. It read: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
She refused to removed them when ordered, arguing that they represented the Holy Trinity. Her commanding officer then threw out the verses, but she replaced them.
After the court martial, she was reduced to a rank of private, and given a bad conduct discharge. She later left the service.
Publication date: August 12, 2016