The U.S. military has decided to discharge Sgt. Gary Stein for various posts he made on Facebook. The Marine Corps said Wednesday he will get an other-than-honorable discharge and lose most of his benefits for violating policies.
Stein said he was disappointed by the decision and argued he was exercising his constitutional rights to free speech. "I love the Marine Corps, I love my job," he told CBS News. "I wish it wouldn't have gone this way. I'm having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career."
Stein criticized U.S. President Barack Obama on his Facebook profile and posted comical images on a Facebook Page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party. Two weeks ago, Federal District Judge Marilyn Huff in San Diego denied a request to block the discharge proceedings, saying the U.S. military had the right to respond to Stein's online comments, which included "Obama is the economic enemy ... He is the religious enemy ... he is the 'Fundamentally change' America enemy ... he IS the Domestic Enemy."
The Marine Corps administrative board, which made the dismissal recommendation, argued he committed misconduct. In addition, the board also suggested that Stein be given "other than honorable" discharge, meaning the marine of nine years would lose his benefits and would not be allowed on any military base.
Stein is allowed to appeal if he is discharged. That's exactly what he plans to do: he will continue to fight outside the military and go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gary Kreep, an attorney for Stein, said he would pursue administrative appeals within the Marine Corps, but doesn't have high hopes, and would also file an amended complaint in federal court.
The Marine Corps decided to take administrative action after Stein declared "Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him" on Facebook. Stein said his statement was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. He explained he would not follow orders from the president if it involved detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them, or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights. He later clarified the original statement, saying he would not follow unlawful orders.
Stein also superimposed images of Obama's face on a poster for Jackass : The Movie as well a poster for "The Incredibles" movie, the title of which he changed to "The Horribles." I found the latter on Facebook (it was posted on March 20), but I was unable to locate the former – it may have been pulled, or simply hidden from the Page's timeline. Stein's lawyers argued he was expressing his personal views and exercising his First Amendment rights.
Stein, whose service ends July 28, told board members he loved the Marine Corps and wanted to re-enlist. The Facebook Page makes it very clear that Stein's opinions are his own ("We do not represent, and are in no way affiliated with the military, or United States Armed Forces") and that the Page's mission is to offer a place for discussing politics ("To offer a forum that will allow the voices of the US Armed Forces to stand with the Tea Party movement, and be heard").
Stein said the Facebook postings resulted in him losing his job at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego last month. He was instead given a desk job with no computer access.
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