Marine Sergeant Facing Dismissal For Anti-Obama Facebook Page

A Marine, Sgt. Gary Stein, has been notified by the Marine Corps., that they are moving to dismiss Stein for running a Facebook page called “Armed Forces Tea Party” that criticizes the Obama administration. Sgt. Stein is being accused of violating Pentagon policies that bar troops from engaging in political activities.

The military has had a policy in place since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticizing the commander in chief.

David Loy, of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego County, said that based on what he has seen in the media, he thinks there may be a legitimate concern on the part of the Corps about Stein speaking as a member of the armed forces because of his Facebook page’s name.

“The military has a very strong interest and appropriately so to remaining neutral,” he said. “The last thing we want is our military taking side on political issues.”

Stein said he has received hundreds of emails from service members and the public in support of him.

“They’re entitled to their opinions, but I still think this is a freedom of speech issue,” Stein said. “I’m standing up for the Constitution.”

Stein, a nine-year member of the Corps, started the page to encourage fellow service members to exercise their right to free speech.

The Marine Corps said it decided to take action after Stein posted on Facebook that he would not follow “unlawful orders from Obama”. He also criticized the comments of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

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.

Stein said his statement about Obama was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or in anyway violating their constitutional rights.

In addition to being discharged, Stein said he would have his rank reduced to lance corporal if he is proven to be in violation. .

Stein was first cautioned by superiors at Camp Pendleton in 2010, after he started his Facebook page and criticized Obama’s health care overhaul. Stein volunteered to take down the page while he reviewed the rules at the request of his superiors.

He later determined he was not in violation and relaunched the page.

Stein says he will fight the charges.

Former military prosecutor Lisa Windsor said since the Civil War, military members have tested those limits and have gotten in trouble. Now these cases can go global because of the Internet.

“I think they’ve been very lenient with him so far,” Windsor said.

Stein said he will not wear his uniform when he speaks to tea party supporters but he likely will mention his case.

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