Political Education

Freedom of speech in the military

Recently, Marine Sergeant Gary Stein was discharged for posting inflammatory comments about President Obama on a Facebook group he created called the Armed Forces Tea Party.  The post that ultimately got him dismissed from the Marines said “Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him.”  He later clarified that he wouldn’t follow an unlawful order.  Stein had been warned previously by his commanding officers about the military‘s policy about criticizing the commander and chief and told him to tone down his message.  He didn’t listen.  During his trial, screenshots and other posts were used as evidence against him. Stein was given an “other than honourable” discharge.  Since the Civil War, the military has had a policy against uniformed service members speaking out for or against political candidates, including the current President, and the policy limits the public criticism of uniformed service members of the Commander-in-Chief.

Is this right or fair?  Should there be a limit to free speech?  Absolutely.  You cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre.  At a bare minimum, Stein insulted his boss on the Internet.  What happens in the real world when you do that is that the company finds a way to fire you.  That is the way that life works.  But in the military, you are held to a higher standard.  You take an oath to “serve and protect the Constitution” and that means following the chain of command. Stein publicly stated that he wouldn’t follow his chain of command.  I feel the military did the right thing.  Facebook should not become a tool to vent all of our frustrations–I think it’s crazy people are using it that way.

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