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Tuesday, May 3, 2016
WND Wrongly Portrays Court-Martialed Marine As Victim of Anti-Christian Persecution
Topic: WorldNetDaily

Greg Corombos writes in an April 27 WorldNetDaily article:

Five military judges heard oral arguments Wednesday in the appeal of a U.S. Marine punished through a court-martial for refusing to remove Bible verses from her workstation, and a retired general says the case could determine whether there really is religious freedom in the U.S. military.

Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling lost her original court case, as the court ruled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to the the type of religious expression she was displaying and did not protect her from punishment for refusing to remove the verses.

A decision is expected this summer.

Corombos interviews retired Army lieutenant general William “Jerry” Boykin, who reinforces the idea that Sterling was punished for being a Christian and that members of the military are not required to "sacrifice your First Amendment right to the freedom of religion."

Just one problem: That's not what happened to Sterling.

As Chris Rodda details at the Huffington Post, the Bible-verse infraction was the least of the offenses that led to Sterling's court-martial:

The charges against Sterling resulted from several separate, unrelated incidents over the course of five months. These incidents included failing to go to her appointed place of duty, disrespecting a commissioned officer, and disobeying direct orders from her superiors to wear the proper uniform. These incidents had nothing to do with religion or religious freedom.

The most serious of the charges that Sterling was found guilty of were her failing to go to her appointed place of duty, and her disrespecting of a commissioned officer in relation to that incident. Sterling was assigned the duty of giving out passes to family members visiting Marines who had just returned from a deployment. This duty was to be for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. Sterling claimed that she couldn’t perform this duty because she was on medication for migraines that made her drowsy, but, as the court-martial found, there was no reason that this medication would have interfered with Sterling performing this duty if she took it at night as prescribed. But, as Sterling admitted, she was not planning to take her medication as prescribed on that Sunday. She was planning to take it earlier. Her reason? She was going to church and the loud choir at the church service might bring on a migraine. Seriously, that was her excuse — that she planned to take her medication not as prescribed. Needless to say, this excuse didn’t work. The disrespecting of a commissioned officer occurred a few days before the Sunday on which Sterling was assigned to be on duty giving out the passes. Sterling refused to take the passes from the major who was trying to give them to her, an incident witnessed by a first sergeant who, when asked at the court-martial to describe Sterling’s behavior towards the major, said it was “the most disrespectful thing [he] had witnessed from a Marine of junior rank” to a commissioned officer in his over eighteen years of service.

The right-wing Liberty Institute glommed onto Sterling's case, Rodda writes, and the appeal of Sterling's punishment it's leading makes no mention whatsoever of the other, more serious infractions that led to the punishment: "Even without the charges resulting from Sterling’s refusal to remove her signs, she would certainly still have been court-martialed and found guilty of these other charges. And, by failing to appeal the other convictions to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, Sterling’s 'counsel' has waived any legal arguments or defenses she may have had regarding her other convictions, making those convictions now final."

Rodda also notes that Boykin is among nine retired military officials who filed an amicus brief in support of Sterling -- something Corombos doesn't mention in his article. As with the Liberty Institute appeal, the generals failed to mention the other charges for which Sterling was punished.

But actually helping Sterling is not the point -- exploiting her to advance the right-wing narrative of Christian persecution is, and WND has eagerly played along.

A May 2015 WND article by Cheryl Chumley reported on the case pushed the persecution narrative, and lying preacher and WND columnist Bradlee Dean ranted how "Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling was court-martialed for refusing to take down a paraphrased Bible verse on her computer," calling it evidence of "the attacks toward America’s Christian heritage." Needless to say, neither mentioned the other charges Sterling faced.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:42 AM EDT

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