April 30, 2012 8:04 AM

Gary Stein: If you want to exercise your 1st Amendment rights, become a civilian

On Facebook postings, Stein had called Obama a coward and an enemy, vowed not to salute him, declared he would not follow orders from Obama that he considered illegal, and urged the president’s electoral defeat. One of the websites was an Armed Forces Tea Party page on Facebook created by Stein, who sought to sell bumper stickers printed with “NOBAMA 2012.”

Freedom of speech and expression is among the most wonderful and cherished of our constitutional rights. What far too many Americans fail to realize, though, is that said freedom is neither absolute nor unfettered. There are situations in which the 1st Amendment simply doesn’t apply…like, f’rinstance, when you openly insult and demean your boss. In most cases, you can (deservedly) be fired without recourse. This is especially true when you’re wearing the uniform of the American military and your boss just happens to be the President of the United States. In this example, freedom of speech has some very definite limits, which has as much to do with disrespecting your boss and it does with threatening order and discipline. Gary Stein was smart enough and had served long enough to know this; that he chose to ignore and express himself in a clearly inappropriate manner is not an example of government oppression.

Stein was warned by his superiors. Anyone who’s ever served understands that disobeying a lawful order can and will have serious consequences. This isn’t a free speech issue, despite all caterwauling to the contrary. It’s a matter of military discipline and readiness…and Stein should have known better.

Not surprisingly, Stein was discharged from the Marines with a “other-than-honorable discharge.” He and his Conservative supporters are screaming oppression and claiming that Obama’s jack-booted Socialist thugs are responsible for silencing his absolute, inalienable freedom of speech. Except that this isn’t at all what happened to Stein. He insulted and demeaned his boss; if this sort of thing was allowed to continue, how long do you think it would be before our military became an arm of the Tea Party? A fighting force exists to do one thing: fight. Anything that detracts from that mission degrades readiness and discipline. Anyone wearing a uniform accepts and (hopefully) understands this.

Soldiers, sailors, and airmen don’t get to openly debate politics in the manner that Stein chose. That’s part and parcel of maintaining military discipline and unit cohesion. If they want to be able to exercise their 1st Amendment rights unfettered, there’s an avenue available to them: they can become civilians.

[T]he Marine Corps announced that Stein would get an other-than-honorable discharge at an undisclosed date for violating Pentagon policies, a punishment that carries a loss of most benefits. The military has long placed limits on the free speech of active-duty military personnel, including criticism of the commander in chief.

Now that Stein has been booted from the Marines, he’s been rewarded by his supporters with an online radio program, where he can spew all manner of hate, rumor, and innuendo as he sees fit beginning May 1st.

Knock yourself out, Cowboy….

No one is depriving Stein of his inalienable and absolute free speech rights (which really don’t exist in the first place). Stein disobeyed a direct order. He was disciplined by being discharged with an “other-than-honorable” discharge. End of story.

Any questions?

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on April 30, 2012 8:04 AM.

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