Marines Think Bible Verses Are Threat to “Good Order and Discipline”

A marine was court-martialed because she was ordered to remove Bible verses from her work station and refused.

The Bible verses that started the controversy were actually one verse printed on three separate pieces of paper. According to the Military Times,

The case involves former Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling, who in May 2013 was assigned at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to a desk job handling complaints from other Marines experiencing issues with their Common Access Cards.

Sterling taped three paper copies of the same quote — “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” — in 28-point type on her computer’s tower, her monitor and her desk. The line is a variant of a passage from Isaiah 57:14; Sterling said the three copies reflected the Trinity.

A native New Yorker and Christian who does not affiliate with a particular denomination, Sterling told military officials that the posted passage helped her summon patience when dealing with short-tempered Marines who were frustrated with their CAC problems.

But Sterling’s staff sergeant didn’t like the passages and ordered her to remove them. When Sterling refused, the staff sergeant ripped them off herself. The next day, Sterling replaced the passages with new ones, and the staff sergeant removed those as well.

Ultimately, Sterling was charged with violation of a lawful order and that, along with other low-level misconduct, led to her court-martial conviction and a sentence of reduction in rank to E-1 and a bad-conduct discharge.

In Sterling’s first appeal, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals in February upheld the conviction. A military judge determined that the quotations, “could be interpreted as combative … [and] could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline,” court records show.

Now Sterling is taking her case to the military’s highest court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

[See also, “Military Discouraging Christians from Joining, Staying.”]

It is hard to be sure what went on. There are good ways and bad ways to go about invoking one’s basic First Amendment rights. But Sterling was representing herself and now she has the help of veteran First Amendment lawyers. So the fact that she has lost the case before now doesn’t seem to mean that much. The fact that lawyers have now taken her case indicates to me that they think they can win.

In our current climate of anti-Christianity in all Federal groups, it is all too credible that Marine officers would find Bible verses too intimidating to be tolerated.