A marine facing discharge after running a Facebook page criticizing the Obama administration is now backed by a team of lawyers to fight the alleged violation.
Sgt. Gary Stein, 26, will appear before a military board at Camp Pendleton near San Diego Thursday because of a Pentagon policy barring service members from joining political activities, according to the Associated Press. His lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union say his views are protected by the First Amendment.
Stein started a page on Facebook called the Armed Forces Tea Party to "encourage fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights," he said. But once he wrote that he would not follow unlawful orders from Obama, the Marine Corps took administrative action. Stein said the comment stemmed from an online debate about NATO forces allowing U.S. troops to be tried for Koran burnings in Afghanistan and how he would not follow orders to detain or disarm those American troops.
Free speech for service members has been limited in the U.S. armed forces since the Civil War, and that also means criticizing the commander in chief. Stein could be discharged and have his rank reduced to lance corporal if he is proven to be in violation of military laws.
Call Press:Here cynical, but we would be a lot more sympathetic if this Marine hadn't started an obviously political-themed Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page. It wasn't like it was "Meeting with Marines," and it was a bunch of Marines chilling on Facebook and then this all blew up. Sgt. Gary Stein knew he was pressing the military's buttons with his Facebook page from the beginning and was courting a military violation. The idea that he's been backed by two Republican Congressmen also seems to reek with partisanship and politics rather than free speech.
Published at 1:57 PM PST on Apr 5, 2012