Marine to be Discharged over Facebook Posts
US Marine Sgt. Gary Stein will reportedly be administratively separated with an “Other than Honorable” discharge as a result of his “political” Facebook activities:
The Commanding General for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego…has approved the board’s recommendation that Sgt. Stein be separated from the Marine Corps with an “other than honorable” discharge.
The Sgt’s case is so high profile the Marines took the unusual step of publishing a press release just on the General’s decision. It also noted the OTH discharge is used when
the basis for separation is the commission of a serious offense which is a significant departure from the conduct expected of a Marine.
Some press reports have noted the OTH status of his departure from the military will make him ineligible for veterans’ benefits. In fact, it is a mark that will follow him for the rest of his life, and could even make getting a civilian job difficult.
On one hand, Sgt Stein claimed he was exercising his right to free speech; on the other, he said he carefully followed the rules given.
To the former, the US Supreme Court has recognized the military’s ability to restrict even the Constitutional rights of its members. (For comparison, see Goldman v Weinberger, in which a US military regulation prohibiting a Jewish yarmulke was upheld, and Rigdon v Perry, in which a policy restricting calls for political involvement by religious leaders in the military was struck down. Cases here.) While not without limitation, it seems reasonable the Supreme Court would uphold a military policy on speech restrictions.
There is some indication the discharge may have temporarily been put on hold. In any case, it is likely Sgt Stein will eventually be a civilian. In some regard, he may ultimately be proven “right,” should the military update its policies to reflect the digital age. It is still unlikely, however, even that outcome would reverse his fortunes.