Sgt. Gary Stein, 26, a vocal critic of President Obama, first made headlines back in 2010 when he launched his “Armed Forces Tea Party” Facebook page.
Then last week, the Marine Corps began looking into comments Stein posted to his personal Facebook account. Stein initially wrote that he would not follow orders from the president, but later clarified it to mean that he wouldn’t follow “unlawful orders” from the president.
A Marine Corps spokesman said there is no formal investigation into Stein nor are there any formal charges pending against him. However, Stein said he was read his rights this week on suspicion that he violated an article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice pertaining to disloyalty, and that his on-the-job social-media privileges have been revoked.
In 2010, Stein’s Tea Party page drew national attention. He and the Marine Corps ultimately agreed that he could keep the page, so long as he didn’t access it via a military computer or during working hours.
At the time, the San Diego chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Camp Pendleton in defense of Stein and his Tea Party Facebook page. Yesterday, the ACLU’s legal director, David Blair-Loy, said that while free speech rights are different in the military and civilian worlds, Stein’s entire conversation would need to be taken into consideration.
“Exact words are important and context is important to determine whether it’s protected political speech or unlawfully advocating disobedience of orders,” he said. “The military is not a constitutional black hole, however. Military members retain significant free-speech rights, and that includes the right to have opinions about politics.”
Stein said yesterday that he made his anti-Obama remarks while participating in an online debate about American troops potentially being tried for burning Qurans in Afghanistan.
Stein said he cannot recall exactly what he posted – and the comment has since been deleted – but he paraphrased it as, “I say screw Obama. I will not follow orders given by him to me.”
Stein added that, as the debate continued, he clarified his stance by saying that he wouldn’t follow “unlawful orders” from the president or military commanders, meaning he wouldn’t detain or disarm American citizens or infringe upon their constitutional rights.
Stein said his superiors were later sent an out-of-context screen-shot of his blunt initial comment, but not the subsequent ones explaining his stance.
“My definition of unlawful is something that is criminal or unconstitutional,” Stein said. “I wasn’t anticipating any unlawful orders. I don’t expect any unlawful orders coming down to me. The discussion was about the president. Someone knew I wasn’t a fan of the president. It was a debate, and I stand by the comment I made.”
- Anti-Obama Facebook post tests military rules (msnbc.msn.com)
- Marine’s Facebook page tests military rules (seattletimes.nwsource.com)