Marine Discharged for Anti-Obama Facebook Posts

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Marine sergeant's Facebook posts about President Obama have led to his discharge from the military, in a dispute over free-speech rights in the workplace.

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, 27, a meteorologist at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, posted comments and images on Facebook that allegedly disparaged President Obama, The Press-Enterprise reports.

"Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him," one of Stein's posts said. Stein also created a Facebook "fan page" -- but not because he was a fan of his commander-in-chief.

Marine Sgt. Gary Stein's fan page was called "Armed Forces Tea Party," and included an image of President Obama on a movie poster with the title "Jackass," the Associated Press reports. Another image of Obama was pasted onto a movie poster for "The Incredibles," with the film's title changed to "The Horribles."

In a separate post, the Marine discharged for Facebook posts called President Obama an "economic and religious enemy," The Christian Science Monitor reports.

Stein's comments violated a Pentagon policy that limits service members' political speech while in uniform, military prosecutors alleged. Stein also ignored repeated warnings from superior officers about his online conduct, the AP reports.

Stein and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged his disciplinary proceedings as a First Amendment violation. A federal judge declined to intervene, but Stein's lawyers have vowed to appeal, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In the civilian world, a Facebook-related firing could be grounds for a lawsuit. The National Labor Relations Act protects an employee's right to discuss workplace issues -- like salary and safety concerns -- with coworkers, even on Facebook. But workers who merely complain online, without interacting with other coworkers, may not be protected.

Sgt. Gary Stein's case is different because he is bound by Pentagon policies. The Marine now faces an "other than honorable" discharge for his anti-Obama Facebook posts: He is set to be demoted, and will be ineligible for veterans benefits, the Times reports.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard