The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has affirmed a court-martial of a U.S. Marine for refusing to remove a Bible verse from her workstation. Her lawyers say she has been denied her constitutional right to religious freedom.
The CAAF issued the opinion in United States v. Sterling on Wednesday. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to follow.
“This is absolutely outrageous,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute said. “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. If they can court-martial a Marine over a Bible verse, what’s to stop them from punishing service members for reading the Bible, taking about their faith, or praying?”
First Liberty Institute, along with former solicitor general of the United States, Paul Clement, of Bancroft PLLC, represented Lace Corporal Monifa Sterling at an April hearing before the CAAF.
As reported by Breitbart News, Clement and First Liberty Institute argued before the military’s highest court in late April on behalf of Sterling. Sterling had been court-martialed for printing and posting, “No weapons formed against me shall prosper,” a paraphrase of Isaiah 54:17.
The case involves the interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which protects a person in the exercise of their religion. RFRA has protected the Hobby Lobby Store chain from Obamacare, and has been urged by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“General Patton famously prayed on the eve of battle,” Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “According to the majority opinion, if General Patton couldn’t prove how important praying was to him, he could be court-martialed for his prayer.”
“This is shameful, it’s wrong, and it sets a terrible precedent, jeopardizing the constitutional rights of every single man and woman in military service,” Shackelford said. “We will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. This cannot be allowed to stand.”
This article has been updated.