“No weapon formed against me shall prosper." Those were the words that have gotten Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling court-martialed and discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps. Sterling was found guilty of bad conduct charges for refusing to remove a piece of paper with the bible passage from her desk at work.
According to FOX News, Sterling’s guilty charges include failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four counts of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer. The verdict was rendered in February 2014, at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. She was demoted to private and given a bad conduct discharge for the criminal conviction.
An appellate court ruled that the decision, in fact, does not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and that "It is not hard to imagine the divisive impact to good order and discipline that may result when a service member is compelled to work at a government desk festooned with religious quotations.”
Sterling's current representation believes that the charges and the conviction stem from a larger conflict that was happening her office at that time. Following an incident that included a supervisor throwing the bible passage in the garbage, Sterling was accused of failing to wear an appropriate uniform.
FURTHER APPEALS PENDING
Sterling, who is now unemployed and represented by several experts in the field, has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. She and her counsel believe that the court-martial decision does in fact violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and has troubling implications for all service members who practice their faith.
"If the government can order a Marine not to display a Bible verse, they could try and order her not to get a religious tattoo, or go to church on Sunday," said Attorney Michael Berry, who now represents Sterling. "Restricting a Marine’s free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional."
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A military attorney performs many of the same duties as his civilian counterpart. The difference is that the attorney works for and with military personnel. Military legal personnel participate in court proceedings in courtrooms on military bases all across the globe.