Hearing today for Marine facing discharge for Facebook posts

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Sgt. Gary Stein, a U.S. Marine, faces possible dishonorable discharge over criticisms he made against the Obama administration on Facebook, though he’s not backing down without a fight.

Stein is appearing before a military board at Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 5, where he’s arguing his case for free speech.

“My heart is heavy this morning I tie up my boots and start my hour drive to Camp Pendleton. It hurts me to know that I could be punished for the one of the constitutional rights I have give the last 9 years of my life to protect,” Stein wrote on Facebook the morning of the hearing.

The Marine started a Facebook page called “Armed Forces Tea Party,” where he encouraged other service members to speak freely against the government. More than 26,000 people have Liked the page.

The military decided to take action against Stein after he wrote that he would not follow orders from President Barack Obama that he perceived as unlawful.

Stein, a nine-year member of the Marine Corps, is backed by lawyers and U.S. congressmen as he puts the military’s policy on limiting its members’ free speech to the test. The 26-year-old was told last month that the military is looking to discharge him for engaging in political activities.

The Marine said his comments about the president were made during a Facebook discussion about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) allowing U.S. service members to be tried over Quran burnings in Afghanistan. Stein said he would not follow orders if they included detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them, or carrying out any other action he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

The Pentagon’s policies limit the free speech of military personnel in uniform, including criticizing the president. Stein, along with his lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim his opinions are protected by the First Amendment.

“Sgt. Stein didn’t say anything for which the Marine Corps has any right to punish him. He did not threaten order or discipline or take positions that anyone would attribute to the Corps,” David Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, told the Associated Press.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter (himself a former Marine) and current Rep. Darrell Issa, a former bomb disposal technician in the army, have expressed support for Stein.

If he’s deemed to be in violation of the military’s rules, Stein will be both dismissed and have his rank reduced to lance corporal.

His profile states “I am a Conservative, hell bent on defending the constitution and preserving Americas greatness.”

This time, he’s looking to the Constitution to protect him.

Photo via Facebook

Kris Holt

Kris Holt

Based in Montreal, Kris Holt has been writing about technology and web culture since 2010. He writes for Engadget and Tech News World, and his byline has also appeared in Paste, Salon, International Business Times, Mashable, and elsewhere.