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Supreme Court guns down Marine who posted 'weaponized' Bible verse

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of a U.S. Marine who was court-martialed for posting Bible verses at her desk.

The Marine Corps’ chief argument is that it has the authority to decide whether or not a particular religious practice is important enough to be protected by the First Amendment, said the non-profit legal group First Liberty, which represents Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling.

“Because the Supreme Court did not decide to review the case, the travesty below by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will now stand,” said First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford.

“The military court’s outrageous decision means federal judges and military officials can strip our service members of their constitutional rights just because they don’t think someone’s religious beliefs are important enough to be protected.”

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Sterling posted the Bible verse Isaiah 54:17 at her workstation. It states, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

Her supervisor pulled it down and threw it away, and she reposted it. The supervisor threw it away again.

Even though evidence at trial showed other Marines were allowed to have personal items on display, she was denied that right, Liberty Counsel said.

The ultimate impact of her case could be far-reaching.

Her case had drawn support, in the form of friend-of-the-court briefs, from both Sikhs and Jews.

One is from Lt. Col. Kamal S. Kalsi, an emergency room physician who earned the Bronze Star in Afghanistan in 2011 and became the first Sikh member of the armed forces to be permitted to serve on active duty with a turban, beard and unshorn hair in more than 20 years.

He fought the system to be allowed to practice important requirements of his faith and argued for Sterling to be allowed the same.

“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is the final shield for those forced to choose between serving their country and observing their faith,” his brief argued. “If the opinion below were to stand, the religious freedoms of service members, especially those of minority religious groups like Sikhs, could be greatly restricted.”

RFRA limits the government’s ability to impose a burden on a person’s religious faith.

The brief argued: “Congress clearly intended for the judiciary to perform an active and essential function in safeguarding religious freedom while simultaneously refraining from passing judgment on the objective validity or importance of a religious adherent’s beliefs.”

The military court, however, decided that banning the Bible verse signs would neither “prevent her from engaging in conduct [her] religion requires or cause her to abandon one of the precepts of her religion.”

Kalsi asserted the Supreme Court should “bring the CAAF’s interpretation of RFRA’s ‘substantial burden’ requirement in line with the majority of the courts of appeals and with congressional intent.”

“The United States military has a strong tradition of religious pluralism. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and those who profess no faith at all have served side by side for centuries. If CAAF’s decision is allowed to stand, the religious freedoms of service members could be greatly restricted,” he argued.

Shackelford noted that the precedent even could turn on civilians.

“Sterling’s case is extremely important to the future of religious freedom, as the number and quality of these amicus briefs reveal,” Shackelford said. “Voices in the military, in the church, in religious minorities, and from across the nation are uniting to ask the Supreme Court to protect religious freedom. We hope the Supreme Court will heed their requests and accept this historic religious freedom case.”

Another brief was from Dr. S. Simcha Goldman, a clinical psychologist and a retired U.S. military member.

He also is an ordained rabbi and adherent to Orthodox Jewish religious practice. He was the petitioner in an unsuccessful Supreme Court case in 1986, when he asked for permission to wear a yarmulke while in uniform, before the creation of the RFRA. That decision, he noted, was “broadly denounced.”

His brief argues that if the Supreme Court rejects the Sterling case, there is no other opportunity to correct “the CAAF’s error.”

“Service members do not have an appeal right to the CAAF, and there is no reason to think the CAAF will voluntarily revisit the erroneous holding,” it says. “This petition is thus the court’s only chance to ensure the men and women of faith in our armed forces enjoy the full protections RFRA guarantees.”

WND reported in 2016 when the Court of Appeals for the Armed Services affirmed the dismissal of Sterling.

“The Liberty Amendments” is the blueprint on how to fix our broken government by Mark Levin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “Liberty and Tyranny” and “Ameritopia.” Order it today at WND’s Superstore.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council’s executive vice president and former Delta Force commander, worried about the implications.

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear this case has the unfortunate effect of allowing a chill on religious expression in the military to continue, and only underscores the need for the Trump administration to root out the anti-religious animus allowed to fester in the military during the Obama administration.

“Defense Secretary Mattis must consider the many complex ramifications of anti-religious Obama-era policies that remain in effect. The DOD and Congress need to ensure the priorities of the U.S. armed forces remain those that the Secretary has outlined: mission readiness, command proficiency, and combat effectiveness – not squelching religion – which is actually quite necessary to readiness and effectiveness. Holdover personnel from the Obama administration need to focus on these priorities, and not on the last administration’s social engineering projects that ignore military readiness,” he said.

“If one thing is clear from my 36 years in the military, it is that religious faith is indispensable for the soldier facing danger and the possibility of death in battle. Throughout the history of our magnificent military, faith has played a role not just in strengthening weak knees and frail hearts, but has actually made a difference in the actions of service members who act on this faith to accomplish deeds of valor. To rob the service member of the right to express this faith will do incalculable damage to the armed forces,” he said.