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Marine Refusing to Follow Obama’s Orders Faces Dismissal

Marine Refusing to Follow Obama’s Orders Faces Dismissal

Sergeant Gary Stein is facing dismissal from the Marines after creating a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party – and posting publically that he refuses to follow “unlawful orders” from President Obama. He insists that he has a right to express his personal opinions and will appeal the decision. And he does have some support from those who believe his freedom of speech is being suppressed.

Whether one finds his comments distasteful or courageous, this isn’t a clear-cut case of free speech. Pentagon policies bar members of the military from publicly engaging in political activities, including criticizing the president – a policy that’s been in place since the Civil War. The rules, laid out by the Huffington Post, are fairly clear:

According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.

While it may seem unfair to bar soldiers from political activity, there are some good reasons for the rule. One of the main concerns in the Stein case is that Marine Corps’ concern than his Facebook site could be construed as expressing official opinions on behalf of the organization.

There’s also the matter of the Oath of Enlistment, in which any person joining the armed forces must pledge to obey the orders of the president – so, in saying he will refuse to follow Obama’s orders, Stein is violating his oath of office and his basic job description. And, on a completely different level, is this really that different from a civilian being fired after publicly bad-mouthing his or her boss online? Moreover, can someone who admits they don’t want to follow orders be trusted in a combat situation?

This isn’t Stein’s first clash with his superiors. He was originally warned by the Marine Corps in 2010 that he needed to take down his Facebook page, because it was against Pentagon rules. He initially took the page down, and later put it back online.

He was also warned not to post political content online while at work, another rule he’s apparently refused to follow. All things considered, asking employees to stay off Facebook while at work seems fairly reasonable and not any more restrictive than most private sector jobs. Stein has currently been transferred to a desk job without access to a computer while he fights dismissal.

What do Care2 readers think? Is this a case of free speech being trampled, or do you side with the Marine Corps?


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Photo credit: Official US Navy Imagery

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8:35AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Is this comment space only for Bill R. and LD B.? I hope not because here are my 2 cents: If you enlist and take the oath, you've made a choice. Stick by the rules, find a way to change them without breaking the rules or un-enlist. Three choices. Not brain surgery.

8:54PM PDT on Apr 18, 2012

I am sorry if you took that "four letter garbage" to me you, it was not intended in any manner. It was the garbage that marines made you parrot while on base, you still had freedom of speech once you walk through the main gate.

Anyway, it was in no way intended to offend you or anyone, it was just a fact of military life.

11:02AM PDT on Apr 18, 2012

Well, I know you will never believe this but I always left the four letter garbage at the main gate and never, ever took it into the civilian society.

However, you are right in that if you did not use the foul language on base you could wind up with "Office Hours" or extra physical training.

8:26PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

I have never met a US Navy officer that use such fowl language as you have over the past few days. It does make one wonder if you ever wore the Uniform and if you did, thank you, but if you did not then please disregard my thank you as many people are not being caught that have impersonated an officer after leving the ranks.

Have a nice day and enjoy the news!

12:43PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

I certainly hope it is not false or half of every military unit could be in trouble. I did steal the quote from the Marine defense attorney's remarks so I assume he has a good foundation as to what the UCMJ and the US Constitution says about the subject.

I will clarify that by saying, "I will pray for the correctness of he comment".

9:23PM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

While Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement, Stein -- and many Constitutional lawyers -- said his views were Constitutionally protected. The fact is, service members have a right to voice their opinions, as long as they do not appear to be presenting their views as being endorsed by the military.

Sgt. Stein did nothing wrong -- he expressed his Constitutionally-protected speech, and now he's being made a SCAPEGOAT for doing so!

10:36AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

You are having trouble with the words "Lawfull Order" and past, present orders and potential future orders.

Keep your head up and God Bless The USMC and the USA

5:05PM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

I think there is some debate on "which lawful order" the young man did not follow? It must be decided in the UCMJ court of law not by some Democratic mice that think Obama might have gotten his ego hurt. Let the court do their job. If the General that is overseeing the court marshall thinks the young man broke the UCMJ then so be it, but if he determines the young man did not break the code, then we need to fold our bags and offer an apology.

The Chief of staff are now looking at the code as in UCMJ and feel that under the new social websites, there may need to be an updating of the code as this is so minor I do not think the chief are finding the young man has violated any part of it.

11:31AM PDT on Apr 15, 2012

A soldier has the right to refuse an unlawful order. What a courageous soldier. I salute you, sir!

7:32PM PDT on Apr 14, 2012

I stand for fairness for all irrespective of political lines. If a Marine jury finds the young man guilty, then so be it, however in the past it has never gone that far as thousand protested the Viet Nam war under Kennedy and Johnson, but all the received were reprmands, not discharges or loss of tenure.

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