This week, Liberty Institute and volunteer attorney Paul Clement asked the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF)—the highest military court whose cases are subject to review by the Supreme Court of the United States—to review the case of Lance Corporal (LCpl) Monifa Sterling, USMC. LCpl Sterling was convicted at a court-martial for putting a Bible verse on her computer when she was stationed at Camp Lejune, North Carolina.
After being criminally prosecuted by the United States Government, LCpl Sterling initially represented herself, then appealed her case to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals. She again cited her First Amendment rights to religious expression, as well as her protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA is a vital law that has been used in court to protect religious liberty in various contexts.
But in this case, both the trial and the appellate court said RFRA did not apply because displaying a Bible verse does not constitute religious exercise. Sterling and her attorneys take issue with this opinion.
“If the government can order a Marine not to display a Bible verse, they could try and order her not to go to church on Sunday,” says Liberty Institute Director of Military Affairs and Senior Counsel Mike Berry. “Restricting a Marine’s free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional.”