Posting a Bible verse – a federal crime?
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) upheld the court-martial and dismissal from the service of former Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling who continued to post a Bible verse at her desk, despite orders from a superior to take it down.
Sterling’s attorney, Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute, says the court rejected her argument that her faith was protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
“In the military, a court-martial means you’re being prosecuted for a federal crime,” he explains. “And so she now has this federal criminal conviction on her record for not removing a Bible verse when she was ordered to do so.”
The CAAF said RFRA didn’t apply in Sterling’s case (United States v. Sterling) because sharing of Bible verses doesn’t constitute religious exercise as a “part of a religious system of belief.”
Berry says the decision itself “is a very poor decision” – adding that “we believe that the court made many errors. And [that’s why] we plan on asking the Supreme Court to review this case.”
Daniel Blomberg is legal counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief in the case. Like Berry, he believes the decision sets a bad precedent – one that’s “very dangerous” for other service members.
“These are the men and women who we send into harm’s way to protect our liberty – and because of this court’s ruling, their ability to protect their liberties and their most fundamental liberty, religious liberty, is going to be at risk. That’s not the way things should be,” he states.
As Berry states: “Our Marines give up many freedoms when serving, but religious freedom