When her immediate supervisor – Staff Sergeant Alexander – saw the verses, she ordered Sterling to remove them, saying that she did not like the tone.
Sterling refused, according to her lawyers, citing First Amendment freedoms and the fact that others in her unit were allowed to have personal items in their workstations. The following day, Sterling found the Bible verses in the garbage. She then reprinted and posted the verses, but found them in the trash again the next day.
On February 1, 2014, Sterling was court-martialed.
"Marines fight for the freedom of all Americans and make many sacrifices to do so," Liberty Institute senior counsel and director of military affairs Michael Berry told CNA. "They should not be denied their most fundamental freedom – religious freedom – which is guaranteed to all."
Sterling argued before a trial court that her religious expression is protected by her First Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). She also said that none of her peers ever complained about the Bible verses.
(Story continues below)
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"In any event, neither SSgt Alexander nor any other witness testified that any Marine (including the Marine who purportedly shared LCpl Sterling's desk) was ever distracted, annoyed, or agitated by – or even saw – the quotations," the brief explains.
Both the initial trial court and the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against Sterling.
"Indeed, the appellant never told her SSgt that the signs had a religious connotation and never requested any religious accommodation to enable her to display the signs," the appeals court said in its decision. "Instead, the record supports the conclusion that the appellant was simply placing what she believed to be personal reminders that those she considered adversaries could not harm her. Such action does not trigger the RFRA."