Saturday, April 07, 2012

Marine Corps sergeant tests the limits of the First Amendment for members of the Armed Forces

A Marine Corps administrative board recommended discharge, and a less than Honorable one, for a sergeant, Gary Stein, who made “contemptuous” remarks about the Commander in Chief (President Obama) on his personal Facebook page.  A second review by a federal judge has not resulted in overturning of the recommendation.

NPR has a story by Mark Memmott here

The Los Angeles Times also reports on the matter here.

Stein’s attorney has been claiming that his remarks are protected by the First Amendment because they were done off-base, off-duty with his own personal account.  It was not clear whether he “protected” them with any privacy settings.  Could a contemptuous email to one person or to a listserver or on a discussion forum (the 1990s predecessors to social media) result in discharge?

Even President Clinton, back in the 1990s, had “admitted” that military members are effectively on duty “at all times and in all places.”

Readers familiar with my own story may know that I believe that one should not bash or create public conflicts with one’s “employer”.  I was working for a company with sensitive business with military members in the 1990s and made a transfer (to Minneapolis, another city) to avoid possible “conflict of interest” before publishing my book that dealt with gays in the military. This would even complicate eldercare in my own family later. So I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the sergeant.

What would happen, though, in a world where there was military conscription again (as Israel has, and was proposed after 9/11)?

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