SAN DIEGO (CBS) — A Camp Pendleton Marine could be discharged for starting a Facebook page with critical statements about President Barack Obama.
KNX 1070’s Tom Reopelle reports Sgt. Gary Stein is facing possible dismissal from the Corps from posting comments that he would disobey any unlawful orders from the commander-in-chief.
Stein, a 9-year Marine veteran, started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party, which encourages “active, inactive, or retired members of the United States Armed Forces to stand with the Tea Party movement”.
The group’s information page states, “We are Not a militia. We are Not advocating or promoting the overthrow of any government whether local, state or national. We are Not advocating or promoting violence towards any organization, group or person. We are Not advocating or promoting the removal of any person from his or her elected office.”
Stein’s commanding officer ordered a preliminary inquiry on March 8 after receiving allegations that Stein posted the political statements violating the Pentagon’s directives, according to the Associated Press.
According to Pentagon directives, military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.
His statement regarding President Obama was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan.
He said it was in that context that he said he would refuse to follow orders from the president if those orders included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.
Former Marine judge Gary Solis said Stein clearly violated military regulations and will likely be discharged.
“He is something of a rebel, apparently, and despite having been warned to knock it off, he continued,” said Solis. “This is not something the Marine Corps or the country can afford.”
Stein said he will fight any effort to remove him from the Marine Corps.
“I’m completely shocked that this is happening,” Stein told the Associated Press. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve only stated what our oath states that I will defend the constitution and that I will not follow unlawful orders. If that’s a crime, what is America coming to?”
Stein said he respects the office of the president, but he does not agree with Obama’s policies. He said he is within his rights to speak up.
The Marine Corps said Stein is allowed to express his personal opinions as long as they do not give the impression he is speaking in his official capacity as a Marine.
Solis said that despite the free speech question, the issue ultimately boils down to preserving the chain of command.
“We can’t allow individual soldiers or Marines to be deciding for themselves what orders are constitutional or what national policies are supported by the Constitution,” he said.
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