The Marine Corps administrative board says a marine who 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 has committed misconduct and should be dismissed. The military board made the decision Thursday after a daylong hearing at Camp Pendleton for Sgt. Gary Stein.
The Marine Corps decided to take administrative action after Stein declared on Facebook that he would not follow orders from Obama. 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.
During the hearing yesterday, prosecutor Capt. John Torresala said Stein 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.
In addition to the dismissal recommendation, 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. A general will take the board's recommendations into consideration and will dish out a final verdict.
Stein's lawyers argued he was expressing his personal views and exercising his First Amendment rights.
"We're truly surprised and disappointed but it was an honor to fight for a hero like Sgt. Stein and every other Marine's right to speak freely," Stein's defense attorney Marine Capt. James Baehr told CBS News. "There is no basis in this case. Sgt. Stein has broken no law."
Stein, whose service was to end in four months, told board members during Thursday's hearing that he loved the Marine Corps and wanted to re-enlist, according to Baehr. 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").
Here's the company overview:
Our Armed Forces place their life on the line for political agendas every day, is it common sense to think that they should have no opinion about what they are potentially sacrificing their lives for? We say no! Let them be heard.
We are a simple fan page that is set up to allow active, inactive, or retired members of the United States Armed Forces to stand with the Tea Party movement.
We do not represent, and are in no way affiliated with the military, or United States Armed Forces.
There's also a long list of things the organization says it doesn't represent:
We are Not a militia.
We are Not advocating or promoting the overthrow of any government whether local, state or national.
We are Not advocating or promoting violence towards any organization, group or person.
We are Not advocating or promoting the removal of any person from his or her elected office.
We are Not advocating or promoting that anyone in the Judicial Branch be removed or replaced.
We are Not advocating or promoting any particular form of government other than the Constitutional Republic which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution defined and instituted.
We are Not advocating or promoting the rewriting of the Constitution nor are we asking for an Amendment thereto.
We are Not advocating or promoting any act or acts of aggression against any organization or person for any reason including, but not limited to; race, religion, national origin, political affiliation, gender or sexual orientation.
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.