In what has been called one of the biggest military religious liberty cases in American history, religious liberty lawyers at First Liberty Institute petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to hear the case of former Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling for refusing to stop displaying a Bible verse on her desk.
Sterling was court-martialed for refusing orders to remove from her work area a display of a paraphrase of Isaiah 54:17 that read, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”
The justices will vote in early 2017 on whether to take the case, Breitbart reported, and if they do decide to hear it, it would likely be scheduled for later in the year.
In 2014, Sterling was convicted in a court-martial at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which resulted in a reduced rank as well as a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Such a discharge made Sterling ineligible for veterans benefits, according to the Independent Journal Review.
Lawyers claimed that Sterling should be able to post Bible verses because she is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Mike Berry, First Liberty Institute’s military affairs director, said Sterling’s religious expression should have been protected under the RFRA.
“We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will take her case and uphold her right to religious freedom, setting a clear precedent for all service members and their future expressions of faith within our military,” he told The Daily Caller.
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement has served as the leader of Sterling’s legal team. He argued on Sterling’s behalf at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces but lost in a 4-1 split decision.
Judge Margaret Ryan wrote the decision in the initial case, stating that prosecuting a service member for displaying Bible verses did not put a “substantial burden” on religious expression.
Clement filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on Dec. 23, which is a formal petition for the Supreme Court to review a decision of a lower court. The petition maintained that Sterling’s case offered no “substantial burden” on the basis that prohibiting religious expression is the “most obvious burden.”
The Supreme Court seldom agrees to hear cases from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the conclusion of this case is far from forgone, but it is still an important move in the fight for religious freedoms.
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