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April 10th, 2012
11:10 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Marine who posted critical comments on President Obama speaks, defends his right to free speech

Should members of the Armed Forces be allowed to use social media to voice political opinions? The answer to that question could decide the fate of Marine Sergeant Gary Stein this week, who is facing a "less than honorable" discharge for comments he made on Facebook criticizing President Obama.

Despite repeated attempts by Sergeant Stein to halt the process, a panel voted 3-0 last week to recommend he be discharged from the military – a move that would render him ineligible for veteran's benefits.

In a "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" exclusive, Marine Sergeant Gary Stein and his attorney Gary Kreep, Executive Director of the United States Justice Foundation, explain to Soledad why this case cuts to the heart of the First Amendment and one's right to free speech.

There were two comments that were potentially in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which Stein claims were made on a closed forum on Facebook. He writes that President Obama is "a domestic enemy" and says "as an active duty Marine I say: screw Obama."

"I do believe that my words were somewhat tasteless, and I could have used better words," Stein says. "But the same point the principle behind it or the thoughts behind it thinking that the policies that the President has put forth in the last three and a half years have been crippling our economy, that's my personal opinion as Gary Stein. And it's my every right to say that."

His attorney argues that Stein can't be thrown out of the military for his actions, claiming the military violated their own rules in the way they are enforcing conduct rules on the case.

"I'm here to protect the constitution," Stein says. "I'm here to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And I never disobeyed an order."

Kreep says if they lose the Friday hearing on this case, they will file his case with the Ninth Circuit court.

Watch the interview above.

Filed under: First Amendment • Military
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Timothy Ciciora

    When I see something like this, I ask myself, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” In the military, we have several “laws” that govern our conduct. The first is the Constitution, in which we swore an oath to support and defend. The second is the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Thirdly, is regulations based upon the particular branch of service (ie: Naval Regulations). There are also Command Instructions and orders that are created to cover unique circumstances particular to that parent command.
    In the military, you still maintain the same rights as you had in the civilian community. This includes freedom of speech. Unfortunately, this young man went a bit too far. His actions fall under Insubordinate Conduct, Articles 89 and 91 of the UCMJ. The President is not only a Commissioned Officer; he’s the Commander In Chief. Usually, this is rarely enforced unless there is a pattern of misconduct. He was warned four times to tone it down and obviously he didn't. I get the feeling that all we’re seeing is the tip of this iceberg. I’m anxious to find out the rest of the story because there’s obviously more than what meets the eye here. Good Marines aren't simply booted out of the Corps.

    Timothy Ciciora CMDMC(SW/SS), USN, Ret

    April 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Bob Vollmer

    I hope this young Marine wins his case. He shouldn't be discharged from the Corps. Maybe, just maybe, he should be given some administrative punishment for his choice of words. But, NOT, discharged as a result of them.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Rocky Balboia

    Michael Breen is a former want a bee and needs to pull his head out of Obama's A$$
    End of message


    April 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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