The United States Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a Christian Marine who was convicted by a court-martial after she refused to remove a cut-out of a Bible verse from her workstation.
Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling filed an appeal to the Supreme Court last December after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in Washington ruled against her in August.
Sterling was court-martialed and discharged from the Marines in 2013 after she refused to remove an inspirational message that stated “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” which was summarized from Isaiah 54:15, from her workstation.
The appeals court ruled that the context of the verse could be interpreted as “combative” and that Sterling did not indicate to the person who ordered her to remove the display that the message had any religious significance. The former Marine claimed that she posted the verse at her desk as a form of comfort from bullying.
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced its decision not to hear Sterling’s appeal, upholding the rulings of the lower courts.
The First Liberty Institute, the legal group representing Sterling, argued that the Sterling’s punishment was a violation of her religious freedom.
“Because the Supreme Court did not decide to review the case, the travesty below by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will now stand,” said Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty’s president and chief counsel, according to The Christian Post.
“The military court’s outrageous decision means federal judges and military officials can strip our service members of their constitutional rights just because they don’t think someone’s religious beliefs are important enough to be protected. Our service members deserve better,” he added.
According to The Stream, Sterling was charged with several other offenses, including refusing an order, failing to report for duty, and lying about why she did not wear the proper uniform.
Sterling, who initially represented herself at her court-martial hearing, was dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2014, making her ineligible for veterans benefits.
Shackelford vowed to continue to fight for Sterling, noting that First Liberty was previously undefeated in its military cases.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, who signed onto an amicus brief supporting Sterling, said that the Supreme Court’s decision will have the “unfortunate effect of allowing a chill on religious expression in the military to continue,” adding that the ruling “only underscores the need for the Trump administration to root out the anti-religious animus allowed to fester in the military during the Obama administration.”