The Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal from a Marine in good standing – other than expressing the fact that she was a Christian while on duty.
The case had already been deemed no substantial burden on the Marine’s First Amendment rights, so the decision of the Court was simply upholding the court martial of the lower courts.
Justices gave no comment on the case, further fueling the flames of speculation. With a so-called conservative Supreme Court, why would this case slip through the cracks, with nothing at all to be said about the political implications?
The Marine in question, Monifa Sterling, was chastised by superiors for posting Bible verses at her office desk. Court records maintain that she was asked to remove them multiple times while on duty. She refused, and actually continued to post the verses after the initial reprimand.
Monifa argued through her attorney that her ability to post Bible verses on duty was protected by a federal law focused on religious freedom, including within the armed forces while on duty. The case was monitored closely by advocates of free speech and advocates of military hierarchy. Monifa was represented by the First Liberty Institute.
Because of the Supreme Court’s refusal to even hear the case, any contention in the law seems to have been put to law, at least for now. However, if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, is there any validity in the law at all? What protection do any of us have if the members of our armed forces do not even have the freedom that they are charged to protect for us?
Part of the problem may have occurred with the Marine herself. Monifa had a history of disrespect within the armed forces, including insubordination, disobeying lawful orders and dereliction of assigned duty. The Bible verse that she used was also interpreted as aggressive: Isiah 54:17 – “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper.”
It is obvious that Monifa and the armed services did not get along. However, this is exactly the type of person that the law should protect most, for all of our sakes. If you can think of a time that you were the odd (wo)man out, you have definitely thanked your lucky stars that we live in a society that protected your rights regardless of whether people felt like it or not. Although Monifa’s overall career in the armed services was far from exemplary, in a way, Monifa is all of us.
The protection of an individual’s rights should not rely on anyone’s interpretation of good behavior. Because Monifa was denied her right to trial, the precedent can now be used against anyone. For all of the reasons that the Marines could have used to discharge her, the fact that it used a religious reasoning hurts every soldier who wants to uphold the Christian values of America a bit more honorably.
Conservatives must make it a point to stand up for religious freedom, especially in our military. Let’s not get into the issue of how conservatism is connected to the Christian religion, which may be argued on both sides. Let’s talk real politics.
If soldiers are unable to express their allegiance to one of the core tenants of America, one that encourages our armed forces to fight, then our soldiers will soon lose morale. Protection of the idea of Christianity is a protection of the freedom and tolerance that comes with it. If Christianity is not protected in our soldiers, then there is no way that freedom can be protected by our soldiers.
Although Monifa may not have been the model Marine, she is exactly the case that the conservative Supreme Court should have taken on to solidify the protections that our troops have in their religious expression.
In taking her case, the Supreme Court could have set a precedent for the nation that would have stood for a long time. Instead, the Court has damaged the relationship between the moral fiber of our country and the soldiers who risk their lives to protect it. This Court should take greater pains to consider the political ramifications of its actions in the future, conservative or not.
~ Liberty Planet