One of the ‘offensive’ bumper stickers

A federal judge has permanently banned officials at Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina from censoring bumper stickers and window decals critical of Islam and its prophet, Muhammad.

The ruling came in the case of a civilian employee who had served 25 years in the Marines including two combat tours in Vietnam before he retired.

Jesse Nieto lost his youngest son, Marc, in the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole by Islamic terrorists and subsequently carried bumper stickers and decals critical of the violence of Islam, including “We died, they rejoiced,” “Islam = Terrorism” and a picture of Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes cartoon fame, urinating on a cartoon illustration of Muhammad.

The camp base ordered the criticisms of Islam censored, and when Nieto refused, brought court action against him.

Yesterday’s ruling from Senior U.S. District Judge Malcom J. Howard reversed the order.

“Because defendants have applied Base Traffic Regulation BO 5560.2M … in a manner that discriminates against plaintiff’s message, they have violated his individual rights as protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the judge wrote.

“Consequently, the court DENIES defendants’ motion to dismiss or for summary judgment … and GRANTS plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.

“Defendants, their employees, agents and successors in office, are hereby permanently ENJOINED from enforcing Base Traffic Regulation BO 5560.2M … in a manner that discriminates against speech based on the viewpoint expressed,” the judge ordered.

A prepared statement delivered to WND by Maj. Nat Fahy, of the Camp Lejeune public affairs office, said, “The court enjoined the base from using specific sections of a traffic regulation order as a means of dealing with ‘free speech’ challenges. In this particular case, these involved bumper stickers which the Base deemed inflammatory. That said, the ruling in no way limits or precludes the base commander from ensuring the maintenance of good order and discipline aboard the base.”

But Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which worked on Neito’s case, said, “Political correctness is destroying our military. Nine-eleven was caused by Islamic terrorists, and our troops are being killed by Islamic terrorists overseas and on our very own military bases; yet, our commanders are more concerned about ‘diversity’ and not offending the Muslim community. And here, the military re-victimized a father anguishing over the murder of his son by Islamic terrorists because they don’t want to offend Muslims.”

Another “offensive” bumper stickers

In sworn testimony taken in the case, Marine officials admitted they would allow speech that favored Islam, but they wanted to censor Nieto’s comments because they thought they were “extremist, indecent, and offensive.”

The judge, however, pointed out that such determinations are only viewpoints or opinions.

“Defendants argue that the regulation is reasonable and necessary because it is aimed at preventing speech the sole intention of which is to inflame the passion of those within the base command. However, defendants fail to recognize that pro-Islamic messages, such as ‘Islam is Peace,’ and ‘Islam is Love,’ may be just as incendiary to individuals like plaintiff as anti-Islamic messages are to the individual who complained about plaintiff’s decals.”

The Thomas More announcement called Nieto “one of those many unsung patriotic Americans,” and praised the judge’s decision addressed a case of “political correctness run amok.”

The attorneys said Nieto, “to show his anger toward the Muslim terrorists who killed his son,” displayed, “Remember the Cole, 12 Oct 2000,” and other signs on his private vehicle that he used to commute onto the base to work.

“Based on a complaint from a Marine who is married to a Muslim, on July 31, 2008, two military police officers issued Nieto a ticket for displaying ‘offensive material,'” the report said.

He removed several of the stickers, but ultimately refused to remove them all, and base officials then denied him access with that vehicle to the base – or any other federal property nationwide.

The result prevented Nieto from driving his vehicle to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave marker for his son.

“As Judge Howard’s well-reasoned opinion makes plain, political correctness and ‘diversity’ do not justify violating the Constitution,” said Robert Muise, the senior trial counsel who handled the case.

“A a former Marine, I am ashamed at the way the Marine Corps treated this grieving father and war veteran.”

Officials said Nieto would be back on the base, with his vehicle and its messages, within a few days.

When the lawsuit originally was filed, base spokesman Nat Fahy told WND in an e-mail the action against Nieto was pursued based on “third party complaints regarding the offensive nature of Mr. Nieto’s stickers.”

“After refusing his supervisor’s informal request to remove the stickers, Mr. Nieto was issued two separate motor vehicle citations. After being afforded an opportunity to
argue his position in front of the base magistrate, the magistrate told him
to remove the stickers from his car. While he did remove several offensive
stickers off during this period, he refused to remove all of the offending
stickers. Because he remained in violation of the base order, Mr. Nieto’s
DoD registration decal was ultimately removed from his vehicle.”

According to the lawsuit, Lt. Col. James Hessen, the base traffic court officer, ruled that the decals on Nieto’s vehicle were “offensive,” and when asked to explain, said, “‘It’s just what I think,’ or words to that effect,” the complaint stated.

The ticket was issued even though other automobile-mounted slogans such as a Confederate flag with, “If This Offends You … You Need a History Lesson,” a “Darwin fish” mocking Christianity, sexually explicit symbols such as silhouettes of nude women, one with “Your Child May be an Honor Student But Your Driving Sucks,” and several versions of a cartoon character (similar to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes) urinating on various symbols were allowed, the lawsuit said.

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