How many currently enlisted soldiers do you know who are openly criticizing President Barack Hussein Obama in public?
Marine Sergeant Gary E. Stein is one of them. Sgt. Stein is a recruiter based at Camp Pendleton in California. He has received glowing recommendations from his superiors. He has been a marine since July 15, 2003; five years later, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Stein is hoping to reenlist when his current term of service expires in just under four months from now, and he has asked for his current term to be extended until June 28, 2013 (this request is currently pending.)
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He is the founder of the Facebook page called the Armed Forces Tea Party, which he formed in 2010 as an expression of free speech. The page currently has more than 26,000 followers and according to its description is “in no way affiliated with the military, or United States Armed Forces.” He has spoken at several tea party events in southern California during the last two years outside of uniform.
Unfortunately, Sgt. Stein is facing dismissal from the Marines over some comments he has made about Obama recently, notably that the current occupier of the White House is “the enemy“. He also has said that he will not follow what he considers to be any “unlawful order” given by Obama. Stein believes that attempts to throw him out of the military are really about silencing his right to speak out against the president.
Subsequently, Stein has, with the help of the United States Justice Foundation, decided to sue Colonel C.S. Dowling, his commanding officer; Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the US Navy (and Dowling’s superior); The US Department of Defense; the United States Government; and Bridagier General Daniel Yoo, who has threatened Stein with dismissal. He feels that his First and Fifth amendment rights under our Constitution have been violated in the process of attempted separation from service with the Marines. Sgt. Stein insists that he did not agree to give up his right to free speech when he enlisted almost nine years ago.
According to the complaint filed on April 3rd in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Stein and his lawyers believe that “though the First Amendment may operate differently in the military and civilian contexts, the military must still respect a service member’s freedom of speech.” They also believe that the “Defendants are attempting to railroad (Stein) out of the Marine Corps, with an Other Than Honorable discharge, on extremely short notice…without due process of law” in contradiction to DOD Directive 1344.10 (which protects the US citizenship rights of all members of the armed forces.)
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Over the past two years, Stein, along with three friends, used their Facebook page to voice their concerns about the direction America was going. They did not just criticize Obama; they also went after John McCain, the four remaining GOP presidential candidates, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The four were insistent that they were not commenting on issues of public policy as representatives of the US Military but instead as concerned civilians.
In April 2010, Sgt. Stein was asked to appear on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC program “Hardball.” Although he received permission from his immediate superior, he was asked en route to the set of the show to return to base immediately. Soon afterwards, Sgt. Stein was told that he was suspected of using government resources in updating his private Facebook page; he had no problem temporarily taking the page down while they reviewed the matter. Subsequently, Stein was encouraged to include the disclaimer about expressing strictly personal views. He was never actually asked to take down the page.
From November 2010 through March 12 of this year, none of Stein’s superiors tried to restrict or censor his views in any way, shape, or form. He also never encouraged any of his fellow soldiers to disobey any particular orders issued by any superior officer or to carry out any unlawful acts themselves. Sgt. Stein was never told that he was “walking on thin ice” or doing anything wrong by expressing his views as a civilian.
Suddenly, on March 21, Stein was told by his commanding officer (Dowling) that he was recommending that the Sergeant be discharged from the Marines because of “alleged misconduct” that was “prejudicial to good order and discipline.” The notification itself was brief and rather vague. Essentially, it was an ambush.
As mentioned earlier, Stein is fighting an “OTH” discharge. This characterization is “the worst possible mark on a service member’s record that can be imposed” short of being court-martialed. It would strip him of most if not all of his military benefits and would be a black spot on his record, following him for the rest of his life and impacting his ability to make a living in the future.
To make matters worse, the notification required Stein to respond within two days; it was served to him during a period when the defense military lawyers (Judge Advocates) on his base were at training and therefore would leave him without anyone to consult before he had to file his response. He responded promptly, and the defendants in this case scheduled a hearing to take place only nine days after the notification was first served. Although he and his civilian lawyers were able to postpone this hearing until April 5, subsequently they were denied more time to prepare for the hearing every time they made such a request.
According to the complaint, Stein and his lawyers have claimed that they “have had insufficient time to prepare for the hearing on the Notification, the results of which may severely prejudice Stein with respect to his continues military career, future employment, and other important aspects of his life.”
Sgt. Gary Stein and his lawyers want the Court to declare that his First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by the defendants. They argue that the defendants’ interpretation of certain DOD rules led to the violation of his rights. Stein would also like all dismissal proceedings against him to cease; alternatively, should this request not be granted by the court, then he at least would like to be given more time (at least a month) to prepare for his hearing. Finally, Stein wants the defendants to pay his attorneys’ fees and for the expenses he has and will have to endure to settle this legal matter.
Photo Courtesy of Gary Stein via AP.
To watch the original CNN video about this story, click here: http://www.westernjournalism.com/marine-calls-president-obama-the-enemy/
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.