Denver, CO Martial Law Blog

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lawyers Petition Supreme Court to Review Marine’s Court-Martial

Were Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling’s religious freedoms violated by her superior?

In February of 2014, Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling was convicted by court-martial for violating several articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Sterling received a bad conduct discharge along with a reduction in rank.  The charges against Sterling are controversial and stem from several incidents that happened in 2013.  One such incident involved Sterling’s superior requesting that she remove a biblical message taped to her work station.  The message stated “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” and was based on a biblical passage found in Isaiah 54:17. 

Sterling refused to comply with the request and when she later returned to her desk, the passage had been removed.  Sterling was later court-martialed for refusal to comply with officer demands, which included her failure to remove the biblical message.  Representing herself at her court-martial, Sterling was convicted. She appealed this conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which similarly ruled against her.  The Court of Appeals found that there was no substantial burden placed on Sterling’s religious freedom rights as Sterling did not inform the officer that the sign had religious significance, nor was a religious connotation raised at trial.

Now, lawyers representing Sterling are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and consider important questions surrounding the constitutional rights of service members.  At issue will be the fundamental question of whether Sterling’s biblical based passage should have been protected as free religious expression.

Defense Against Court-Martial

Being accused of a crime is a frightening experience.  Facing court-martial can have a lasting impact on your career and freedom.  When you are court-martialed, you will be forced to go up against experienced prosecutors with high conviction rates.  If you are facing a court-martial, you will need an experienced Colorado court-martial defense attorney to level the playing field and protect your legal rights.  Your court-martial defense attorney will closely review the circumstances surrounding your charges to mount the strongest possible defense and fight for your best legal outcome.  

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