.- A Marine veteran whose anti-terrorist and anti-Islam vehicle decals hindered him in visiting the grave of his fallen son at Arlington National Cemetery has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the military order which rebuked his display of the decals.
Jesse Nieto, a 25-year Marine veteran, served two combat tours in Vietnam. His youngest son, Marc, was one of the seventeen sailors killed in the terrorist bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October of 2000.
Since 1994 Nieto has been a civilian employee at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In 2001 he began displaying various decals on his vehicle expressing sentiments such as “Remember the Cole, 12 Oct 2000,” “Islam=Terrorism” and “We Died, They Rejoiced.”
On July 31, 2008, two military police officers ticketed Nieto for displaying “offensive material.”
After Nieto refused to remove all allegedly offending decals from his vehicle, the Base Magistrate issued a written order ordering Nieto to remove his vehicle from the base until all decals were removed. The order banned his vehicle from all other federal installations, and reportedly prevented him from driving onto the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center filed a federal civil rights lawsuit this week on Nieto’s behalf against the Camp Lejeune Commanding Officer and the Base Magistrate in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The lawsuit claims that the military’s ban on Nieto’s vehicle decals violates his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and the equal protection of the law.
“The banning of these decals is political correctness run amuck in the military,” charged Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center. “Our troops are being killed by Islamic terrorists, 9/11 was caused by Islamic terrorists, these terrorists want to destroy America, the Islamic countries persecute Christians, and now the military is victimizing a father whose son was killed by Islamic terrorists while serving our nation.”
Thompson speculated that the Marine command would have to eliminate the Marine’s Hymn because “the phrase ‘to the shores of Tripoli’ celebrates the Marine victory over Islamic forces in the Barbary Coast War and the Battle of Derne.”
The lawsuit alleges that military officials engaged in viewpoint discrimination prohibited by the First Amendment and violated the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee by allowing some messages to be displayed but prohibiting others.
Further, the suit charges that the military’s ban on “offensive” speech is impermissible because there are no objective standards guiding government officials’ decisions, thus granting them “unbridled discretion” to determine the acceptability or the unacceptability of speech, a statement from the Thomas More Law Center reports.