Marines to discharge sergeant who criticized Obama on Facebook

Reuters News
|
Posted: Apr 25, 2012 4:28 PM
Marines to discharge sergeant who criticized Obama on Facebook

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. Marine sergeant who wrote in a Facebook post that he would not follow orders from President Barack Obama will be discharged from the military on "other than honorable" terms, a Marine spokesman said on Wednesday.

California-based Sergeant Gary Stein was advised of the decision after a commanding general upheld the recommendation by a review board, Major Michael Armistead said.

"He was formally informed of that today, of the separating authority's decision. Now he will go through the transition (process) required to leave the Marines," Armistead said. That transition can take up to 20 days, he said.

Stein, a 26-year-old meteorologist at Camp Pendleton, had posted comments saying he would refuse to obey orders from the president, who is the commander in chief of the military, on a Facebook page called the Armed Forces Tea Party page.

He later removed the comments and said he meant to refer only to unlawful orders. He also posted comments to a Facebook network called METOC, which is limited to active-duty meteorologists and oceanographers, where he described Obama as an enemy to America.

In 2010, Stein got into similar trouble with the Marine Corps and had been advised to post a disclaimer that the Armed Forces Tea Party was not affiliated with the armed forces.

Stein has served nearly nine years in the Marines, including a tour of duty in Iraq. He was due to re-enlist or end his enlistment at the end of July, according to court documents. A federal judge rejected a request by Stein to intervene in the case.

A coalition of attorneys supporting Stein had argued the First Amendment guaranteed his freedom of speech.

Any discharge from the military that is not honorable can mean the loss of benefits available to most U.S. military veterans.

Marines and all other military members swear an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution and follow the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which restricts political activities while in uniform.

Off-duty, out-of-uniform actions are far less restricted, but there are limits.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)