Marine court-martialed for displaying Biblical verses

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Fascists: Claiming “significant damage could be caused by forcing military employees to work in the presence of a religious quotation,” a Marine was court-martialed when she refused to remove the verses displayed at her work place.

The case centers on an incident two years ago, in which Sterling was stationed at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. A devout Christian, she chose to place at her workstation three slips of paper with the words, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” a modification of the Bible verse Isaiah 54:17. Sterling taped the Bible verse in three different places to emulate the Holy Trinity, according to her lawyers.

When her immediate supervisor – Staff Sergeant Alexander – saw the verses, she ordered Sterling to remove them, saying that she did not like the tone. Sterling refused, according to her lawyers, citing First Amendment freedoms and the fact that others in her unit were allowed to have personal items in their workstations. The following day, Sterling found the Bible verses in the garbage. She then reprinted and posted the verses, but found them in the trash again the next day.

On February 1, 2014, Sterling was court-martialed.

She lost the case, but is now appealing to the military’s highest court.

The absurdity of this knows no bounds. No one ever complained about the verses. More importantly, it is her right to express them, even as a display.


  • hondo

    Strange case. There’s far more to it beneath the surface. Very difficult to get more details beyond the religion aspect. I’m standing back watching on this one – speaking from experience.

  • Steve

    I think I read about that case some time ago. There were issues of insubordination unrelated to the Bible verses involved.

    Refusing to remove the verses is hardly an offense worthy of a court martial.

  • pzatchok

    Well it looks like they ruled on a pretty narrow interpretation of religious freedom.

    But in the case of the military one I agree with.

    The posting of religious verses or icons is not practicing your faith. But it is expressing it.
    The military only guarantees you the right to practice your faith. Its up to them if you can express it in public or your government work place.

    Her superiors failure and hers was in not sending the situation on to the review board for the RFRA to make a decision. That should have been their first step.
    And she should have followed her commanders orders until that review came back.
    If she had sought council from the on base legal office she would have been told this. Even her chaplain would have told her to do this.

    No there is more to her and this situation than is even in the court matter. She more than likely wanted out of the military fast for some reason and chose to take this route.

  • Garry

    Yes, there appears to be much more beneath the surface to this case. In addition to the issue Pzatchok raised about practicing/expressing one’s religion in a military workplace, my main question is why this got kicked all the way up to a court martial.

    Whenever, for example, my platoon sergeant wanted me to punish one of his subordinates for a minor offense (which Lance Corporal Sterling’s offense appears to be), I always made sure that the platoon sergeant had done all he could to remedy the situation before I did anything. If he hadn’t exhausted all possibilities at his level I directed him to do so, as a way to impress upon everyone (including the platoon sergeant) that the platoon sergeant had authority and had to be obeyed. If he lacked imagination on what to do, I offered some suggestions.

    In this case, if I were Staff Sergeant Alexander’s direct boss and there weren’t other, more serious conduct involved, I would have directed her to exhaust all possible means of correction before I did anything. I should mention, however, that even when I got out 20+ years ago, many of the corrections available to lower level leaders, such as imposing extra duties, were being taken away or severely restricted, and in this era of micromanagement, I imagine it’s even more restricted.

    I would imagine that above Staff Sergeant Alexander level there would be (1) actions by an intermediate leader, such as a platoon commander, then (2) non-judicial punishment (NJP) by her company commander or Officer in Charge, then (3) a court martial at the next level. I wonder why this case got kicked up what was probably 3 levels, apparently very quickly.

    My first guess is that either (1) there were other offenses involved, such as gross insubordination, or (2) Staff Sergeant Alexander didn’t have much imagination and/or drive, and neither did her direct boss, so they kicked it up to non-judicial punishment by company commander or Officer in Charge. At that point, Lance Corporal Sterling may have demanded a court martial in lieu of non-judicial punishment, as is her right. Non-judicial punishment is the equivalent of a civil lawsuit, with a “preponderance of evidence” standard, whereas a court martial has the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, so when threatened with non-judicial punishment on a dubious charge, many (including me) demand a court martial, in the hopes that the charges will be dismissed.

    That’s a long-winded way of saying that we can’t tell what’s really going on here without more info.

  • ted

    The Marine’s workspace was a shared workspace. This is not her car or her house, and she was ordered. If she disagrees she should take the issue up through the chain of command.

    Would the dissenters have the same feeling if they were Islamic or Scientology verses?

  • hondo

    Re – ted

    No one here is actually dissenting (?). Two of us are retired military. There is more involved here than just religion – it may in fact be a “blanket covering” on her part to obscure other personal/work issues. I’ve seen this approach taken before. The general court-martial here is elective on her part – she chose to reject lesser approaches, and pushed it up to this point.

    There are pressures against religion in the military – serious ones. I personally don’t believe this is one of them.

  • Cotour


    Dr. Everett Piper counters the thoughts that an opinion is more important than actual truth, Obama on the other hand is the leader of the thinking that an opinion trumps truth. 1.58 min. of your time well spent.

    He is talking with Glen Beck, who I do not particularly follow or agree with much, and he is addressing this current collage student uprising because they feel “unsafe” because some people have different opinions than they do. More progressive, leftist brain washing designed to weaken the populous, part of the stupidification of America. This is Obama through and through, this is what he promotes overtly and covertly.

    I do not know how much the Obama administration has to do with this military situation, but if it stinks I assume that he has his finger prints all over it. And that’s the truth!

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