Unlike: Marine 'to be dismissed' in shame for criticizing Obama on Facebook

Gary Stein
US marine Sgt. Gary Stein should be dismissed for criticizing President Barack Obama on his Facebook page: that is the verdict passed by a military board looking into Stein’s case.

Following a special hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the corps board recommended that the marine is given the other-then-honorable discharge stripping him of benefits. If the ruling passes, Stein will also be banned from any US military base.

Stain’s lawyers insist that their client, who superimposed images of Obama’s face on a poster for the movie called “Jackass”, did nothing more than exercise his right to free speech.

"We are truly surprised and disappointed but it was an honor to fight for a hero like Sgt. Stein and every other marine's right to speak freely," Stein’s defense lawyer marine Captain James Baehr said, as quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

Baehr stressed that Stein had, in fact, not broken any existing law.  

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and United States Justice Foundation, two groups of which Stein’s lawyers are members, claim that his First Amendment rights are being violated.

However, prosecutor Captain John Torresala told the panel that the nine-year marine had repeatedly violated Pentagon policies which limit the free speech rights of service members. He said that Stein should be dismissed after ignoring a warning from his superiors about his Facebook activities.

According to Torresala, the marine’s improper anti-Obama Facebook comments and postings could have influenced junior marines.  

On his Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party, Sgt. Gary Stein also superimposed Obama’s face on a poster for the movie The Incredibles, renaming it into The Horribles. The Marine Corps board decided to take action after Stein declared on Facebook that he would not follow unlawful orders, including from Obama.

Sgt. Gary Stein insists that all Facebook views were his own and not the military’s. He has also put a relevant disclaimer on his Facebook page.

Until the final decision is made, the marine has been moved from his job at the marine recruiting depot in San Diego and assigned a desk job with no access to a computer.

Pentagon policies limit servicemen’s freedom of speech, which includes criticizing the country’s commander-in-chief. Military personnel cannot set up a political club and must refrain from supporting any political party or candidate on TV or at any public event. Commissioned officers are also banned from using contemptuous words against senior officials.