April 14, 2010

Marine Closes "Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots" Page After Controversy Erupts

When you join the military you agree to abide by the rules and regulations noted in your enlistment contract. While I am aware of regulations that prevent service members from certain kinds of advocacy, I wasn't aware it was meant to go this far:

A Camp Pendleton Marine has removed his Facebook page after his comments fueled a free-speech debate about whether troops are allowed to criticize President Barack Obama's policies while serving in the military.

Sgt. Gary Stein said he was asked by his superiors to review the Pentagon's directive on political activities after he criticized Obama's health care reform efforts and then was asked this week to talk about his views on the MSNBC cable TV channel.

Stein said his supervisor told him of his right to an attorney about the matter. He said he decided to close his Facebook page and review his military code obligations. He also contacted private attorneys who told him he had done nothing wrong.


Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Maj. Gabrielle Chapin said the Marine Corps is not considering filing charges and simply wanted him to be aware of the rules so he did not break them.

The Pentagon's directive states that military personnel are not allowed to write anything to solicit votes for a political cause, sponsor a political club or speak before any gathering that promotes a political movement.

I don't know the regs. Did this Marine cross the line, or not?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 14, 2010 08:46 PM

Nope. . .he did absolutely nothing wrong. Being in the military doesn't mean you have to kiss the President's ass at every turn.

He didn't solicit votes for a cause, he didn't sponsor a political club, and he didn't speak before any sort of political organization.

The sergeant in question is a person that has the right to free speech like everyone else. If people have issue with that, well, too damn bad for them.

Posted by: TheGonz at April 14, 2010 09:18 PM

I think not. As long as he spoke respectfully about the disrespectable cretin in the White House, he was fine. After all, he was talking about an issue of domestic policy, not questioning military policy.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right at April 14, 2010 09:37 PM

Hate to disagree with some people, however while I was active duty Navy I was on both side of this.

Speaking as Gary Stein, he can say anything he cares to say as long as he avoids legally actionable actions (ie libel or slander).

BUT (big but),

Speaking as Marine Sargent Gary Stein he now falls under the UCMJ and DoD Directives. Those private attorneys are correct civilly but very wrong as far as the military rules go.

It's not that different as a civilian, what you say as Joe Schmoe and can get away with, as Joe Schmoe employee of XYZ Corp, what you say can get you fired. Yes your employer can fire you. If you sue them for it you will lose. Seen it happen.

If you are Blogging and looking for work without luck... Yes, employers do check these things.

Posted by: Wildman7316 at April 14, 2010 11:20 PM

I beg to differ.

You as a marine would be not allowed to present; in the judgement of your commanding officer, anything that may be determined to be derogatory or may lead to negative actions, except in obeyance with lawful orders given. You may offer up suggestions in accordance with the UCMJ and are expected to do so. That goes all the way up and down the chain. The President is the commander in chief and as such represents GOD in all matters concerning ones life as the individual signed it away in contract.

So no, the Marine has no buisness sticking his nose in politics until his shtick in the military is done. His duty is to obey all lawful orders even if it means giving his life for it.

Posted by: Ron at April 15, 2010 12:37 AM

Tough to say without actually seeing the Facebook page. How he presented himself (as a Marine vs a regular Joe Shmoe...etc). Even Marines have the right to speak their minds, bound by the restrictions in the UCMJ and DOD Directives that they agreed to. Generally speaking, most of us gave up many of our Constitutionally guaranteed rights when we joined. Personally, I think he did nothing wrong. If he had, charges would have been filed.

Posted by: Jim at April 15, 2010 05:43 AM


So, basically, you would expect members of the military to simply abandon all personal thought and become complete automatons as soon as they sign an enlistment contract?

Can I assume you'd also be against the right of the men and women of the United States military to vote in elections on the national level? After all. . .wouldn't a vote against the incumbent President be a form of speaking out against their boss and, by extension, the policies of that boss?

Sorry. . .the men and women of the United States Armed Forces aren't robots. We get to have our own opinions and speak our own minds just like you or anybody else.

Posted by: TheGonz at April 15, 2010 06:34 AM

INAL, so it's hard to say for sure, but I'm guessing he was running pretty close to the edge, and his superiors gave him the verbal "heads up" to let him know that. Going on TV probably would have put him over the line.

Posted by: MikeM at April 15, 2010 06:38 AM

As a rough rule, when you enter the military, your PUBLIC expression of your POLITICAL views is pretty much limited to the ballot and contributions boxes. That is not to say you must remain silent in all case, but you must be careful not to cross a somewhat changing and unclear line. General and Flag officers have been sacked, and rightly so, for forgetting that fact. Of course, once you retire, you can speak out as clearly as you wish. Unlike many countries, we have a tradition in which the military is absolutely subservient to the civilian government, and not a political power in its own right. As a 20+ year veteran, and staunch conservative, I would not have it any other way. There is, after all, a reason why officers swear loyalty to the Constitution, and not the Command in Chief.

Posted by: Tregonsee at April 15, 2010 07:55 AM

My take is dated, I was in service circa 1965. But at that time, the restiction[s] did not apply if you acted as an individual: you could not be wearing the uniform, or state your rank, or indeed mention that you were currently serving. But you were able to express yourself as a person. Write letters to news editors, contribute to political orgs, etc.

Posted by: John A at April 15, 2010 09:39 AM

As I have not seen his page before it was closed, I can provide the following: I, Ben Murphy, can say and do what the heck ever I please as long as it is only as Ben Murphy with no connection verbally & visibly to the military. If I, SFC Murphy, say and do what the heck ever I please and show a connection that could possibly be interpreted to be part of the military; then I should be hemmed up in accordance with our policies. I completely agree with this. I believe I VOTE everytime I put on the uniform; deploy in support of our Civilian leaders policies; fight wild-fires in the Mid-West; and anytime I talk with young men and women, who are thinking about joining. When I retire, I will be happy to verbally, publicly lambast whatever policies and members of the government that I want to lambast. So, if no charges have been filed against the good Marine, then it sounds like his superiors looked at the page and gave him a word to the wise that he should think about the views and how they could be seen as a Marine Corps point of view and not his own.

"'"Marines take care of Marines," Chapin wrote in an e-mail. "Sergeant Stein's supervisor was concerned that his activities could give the appearance or impression that the Marine Corps is endorsing the group and its messages.'"

I see nothing wrong with his superiors actions.

Posted by: H2OBRDR at April 15, 2010 10:50 AM

It's all a matter of context. Military personnel speaking against Bush are speaking Truth to Power and are true patriots. Military personnel speaking against Obama are racist right wing thugs.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at April 15, 2010 01:29 PM

@ the Gonz. No of course people don't shut down their thinking. Remember it is all contingent upon lawful orders. The marine involved is in obedience with the UCMJ at this time.
He apparently did not think his actions were of a questionable nature but when confronted with them by his supervisor is deleting them.
Again you have to remember that a military man must completely obey orders or face the consequences. That is the law. You wouldn't want your men questioning your tactics with bullets flying around you, at the same time you want them to tell you if you missed something. It is all about the mission.

Also when you enlist in active duty Uncle Sam owns you 24/7. No real off duty time there.
The only thing I ever worried about when I was in the military was were the orders lawful. They all were.

Posted by: ron at April 15, 2010 02:45 PM

When I served (1988-92), we were told that we could not make public statements while in uniform. I suspect that there wouldn't have been a problem if this Marine had had nothing on his page identifying him as a Marine. The DoD will not allow anything that might be construed as speaking on behalf of DoD, even if you clearly aren't.

Posted by: Tennessee Budd at April 16, 2010 12:20 PM

If he just posted on Facebook as Gary Stein of Somewhere, Somestate. The fact that we KNOw he is Sgt. Stein is where the beginning of a potential problem.

He can speak for himself as a citizen, but putting the Sgt. in front of his name and US Marine at the end implies he might be speaking for someone else and that is not allowed.

I see no problem here.

Posted by: ChrisJ at April 17, 2010 04:47 PM

Probably not. He probably did not cross the line. He should feel fortunate that he has good supervisors to look after him; by pointing out the regulations and offering the suggestion of getting a lawyer, the supervisor expressed concern that serviceman was perhaps close to doing something against regulation. No big deal, unless you're hell bent on finding socialist conspiracy in every action that you disagree with.

Posted by: Steve Schwab at April 18, 2010 08:31 AM