Marine court-martialed for refusing to remove Bible verse

"She was found guilty of failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, and four specifications of disobeying the lawful order of a noncommissioned officer."

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Jim's picture

Whose computer was it? 

I work with 330,000 computers. Ever now and then someone says it's "his computer". Well actually NOT. They are owned by the company and the company decides: 

  • Default screen saver
  • Default home page for a browser. Wed sites we cannot visit. 
  • Plus all of the software

Non-story

Sean Fericks's picture

She is being too sensitive.  He is being too sensitive.  Both should have diffused the situation.  No, you don't have a right to put your Bible verses up on a company/federal computer.  Sometimes, we pick the dumbest hills to die on.  Sad.

Mark_Smith's picture

This ruling is only consistent if NO PERSONAL MESSAGES OF ANY TYPE are allowed at workspaces. Is that done? I highly doubt it.

Mark_Smith's picture

Other reports say it was printed out on paper.

If the Marine Corps can tell this woman to not display a verse, then it can tell her not to quote a Bible verse also. Of course, she would be free to curse, swear, and talk about how evil Christians are.

 

Sean Fericks's picture

Mark, the rule would be consistent if no religious messages were allowed to be taped onto computers.

Also, sexual and religious harassment are also prohibited in the Corps.  Thus, swearing and badmouthing Christians is prohibited.  It just isn't enforced (consistently).

Either way, what a poor choice of a hill to die on.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Either way, what a poor choice of a hill to die on.

Sean, what would be a good hill to die on? While I am generally apathetic about these kinds of things, I have to wonder where we should draw the line. The article says that other desks were also decorated. If that is the case, then this seems a blatant form of religious discrimination--something being forbidden simply because it is religious in nature. That would seem to be a problem.

Other reports say it was printed out on paper.

The article says that the next day it was torn off and thrown away. I presume that means it was paper. Either that or some idiot threw out a monitor, not realizing the verse was actually on the monitor but on the computer. So it will show up on the next monitor too.

 

 

Sean Fericks's picture

Not that hill for certain.  You can witness on your own time, on your own stuff.  I think it is a bad testimony to demand the right to post stuff on government property.

Don Johnson's picture

for merely displaying a Bible verse on your desk, would you do what you could to appeal wrongful dismissal? That is what happened in this case. Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances that involve real insubordination on the part of the young lady, but it doesn't sound like it from the news reports.

I don't think she set out to make it a "cause celebre" and a "hill to die on" (what a convenient buzzword). She may have made mistakes along the way, but the thing appears to have escalated way out of proportion and not entirely because of her actions. It seems to me that if I was fired on that basis, I'd fight it if I could.

Meanwhile, all knowing observers who weren't there and didn't suffer the penalties can pontificate about what hill they would die on.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Sean Fericks's picture

She wasn't discharged for displaying a verse (unless I am misunderstanding something). She was discharged for disobeying a lawful order to take it down, and a few other charges.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I read the linked court decision from Starnes' article. Reading behind the lines, she is a problem child who doesn't belong in the military. Goodbye and good luck. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:

She wasn't discharged for displaying a verse (unless I am misunderstanding something). She was discharged for disobeying a lawful order to take it down, and a few other charges.

Earlier you said:

Sean Fericks wrote:
No, you don't have a right to put your Bible verses up on a company/federal computer.  

So which is it? You can't put it up or you have to take it down?

I don't know what is the rule in the American military, but I have seen all kinds of messages posted on computers/desks/work-stations of Canadian military, including, to my surprise, Bible verses. I don't see how posting the verse would be a violation in the first place, but maybe there is more to the story.

However, it seems presumptuous to assume you can make a judgement about the case based on the facts as reported in the story.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Sean Fericks's picture

My statements did not contradict the story, or each other.  Both are true.

I also asserted that the NCO shouldn't have made an issue of the verse.  Both Marines were surprisingly touchy, and both should have diffused the situation.

However, the Christian failed to be a peacemaker, and I hold her to the higher standard.  She did not advance the cause of Christ.  Rather, she made a mountain out of a mole hill.

Sean Fericks's picture

True, I have limited knowledge.  Sounds like you may be aware of something that I am unaware of.

Don Johnson's picture

No, not at all. I know no more than you do. Just trying to tamp down the dogmatism. There is more than one way to read between the lines. It is possible to read the story more sympathetically to the young lady than you and others seem to be doing.

but you could be right, too. We just don't know enough to be so confident in our conclusions.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

I'm not prepared to call her a problem child after reading the court documents, but it is certainly clear that the work environment at that office was crazy. She probably should have just been quiet and dealt with it. Also seems she either had serious medical problems or she was a "sick call" specialist. But that could've been exacerbated by the bad working environment.

The appellant court basically ruled that the comments of the SSGT and 1SGT could've been interpreted to refer to the LCPLs insubordination towards her NCO command rather than the specifics of the Bible verse. That is the problem of the SSGT who should've made it clear what was going on to her command.

I can assure you, the SSGTs I served with, let alone the GYSGT in command would not have let that happen. You did not misunderstand what they were doing, making everything clear.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Sean, the right is not being demanded. The right already exists. It was part of the founding of the country. It was along the lines of "We will agree to this new country, but only if we have certain rights." Take away that right, the whole basis for the founding of the country goes away. Historically, courts have found that right to be pretty broad, it seems to me.

I think it's hard to call this witnessing. At least it's not a verse I use a lot in witnessing. It seems more like someone putting a personal thing in a personal workspace. Would this have been different had it been a picture of a child? Or a quotation from MLK Jr? Or a favorite sports team? The article says that other workspaces were decorated . So why is this different aside from the fact that it is religious (which is the very right protected; i.e., there no right to post a picture of your family, but there is a right to freedom of speech and religion). While understanding there is always more to the story, it seems that this is an issue only because it is religious. Had it not been a religious expression, it would have been allowed. And that, to me, seems to be the problem. The idea that this was a lawful order is the question. Can a officer lawfully order a soldier to do something in violation of an express constitutional right? In other words, is it valid to order someone not to express something religious?

Again, I am generally apathetic about these things and I am quite tired of the silly persecution complex that far too many Christians have. 

But again I wonder, what hill do you die on if not this one? Where is the line?

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that the smart officer might have asked a chaplain in for assistance--a smart one might (a) benefit the young lady by pointing out that the verse doesn't say what she think it means, (b) help her find religious expression that is more suitable, and (c) preserve the nerves of the workplace.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ben Howard's picture

Bert, I have been called in as a Chaplain several times in issues like this; but when it has more to do with belligerence than faith, I usually am ineffective, especially when I side with the command depending on circumstances.  It seems obvious to me she just had a problem with authority and like numerous other Sailors and Marines I've known, she ended up kicked out before her initial contract ended and the service as a whole is better without them.

Bert Perry's picture

Ben Howard wrote:

Bert, I have been called in as a Chaplain several times in issues like this; but when it has more to do with belligerence than faith, I usually am ineffective, especially when I side with the command depending on circumstances.  It seems obvious to me she just had a problem with authority and like numerous other Sailors and Marines I've known, she ended up kicked out before her initial contract ended and the service as a whole is better without them.

Glad to see that that happens, even if you don't "win" all the time.   I would assume that occasionally you get to file a report on the matter as well?  Could make the whole case very interesting, and rather uncomfortable for the plaintiff's lawyer.  

One other thing of note is that the court decision notes a hip injury and a conflict over which uniform to wear.  Seems to match Ben's and Tyler's claims, though to be fair to her, I have to wonder where the hip injury came from.  Accident, pregancy, training, what?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.