Marine appealing conviction for displaying Bible verse

The case of a Christian marine who was prosecuted for displaying a Bible verse on her desk could be reviewed by the highest military court in the US.

Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was convicted at a court-martial in February last year for disobeying an order to remove three print-outs of a verse from Isaiah from her workspace.

No one had complained, but her supervisor said she did not like the tone of the verse which said: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper”, derived from Isaiah 54:17.

Religious exercise

Sterling was given a reduction in rank as well as a bad conduct discharge, but she appealed to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

It ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) did not apply because it claimed that displaying a Bible verse does not constitute religious exercise.

Now religious liberty organisation Liberty Institute is asking for the case to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, considered one level below the U.S. Supreme Court.

Blatantly unconstitutional

Liberty Institute Director of Military Affairs and Senior Counsel Mike Berry said: “If a service member has a right to display a secular poster, put an atheist bumper sticker on their car, or get a Star of David tattoo, then Lance Corporal Sterling has the right to display a small Bible verse on her computer monitor.”

“Restricting a Marine’s free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional”, he added.

Liberty Institute is hoping that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will change the lower court ruling and say that the RFRA does apply.

A decision on whether the case will be reviewed is expected later this year, according to Berry.

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