Oklahoma supports Marine in fight for religious freedom

Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Oklahoma has filed a brief supporting a Marine veteran’s religious freedom as she seeks a review of her case in the military court system.

The states of Nevada, Arizona, South Carolina and West Virginia signed a letter to the court joining Oklahoma’s brief.

The case of Monifa J. Sterling centers on whether members of the military are entitled to the basic protection to freely exercise their religious beliefs as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Sterling was convicted in a court-martial for disobeying orders to remove strips of paper at her desk referencing Biblical scripture.

The papers said “no weapon formed against me shall prosper,” a derivation of Isaiah 54:17 in the Old Testament.

She claimed that the orders were unlawful because they infringed on her right to freely exercise her religion, but the military court stated her actions were not religious.

She was sentenced to a reduction in rank from lance corporal to private and given a bad-conduct discharge, which prohibits her from receiving veterans’ benefits. Sterling is asking for a review of her case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

“Oklahoma’s desire to enable its citizens to freely express and exercise their religious beliefs is not limited to civilians, but extends also to the brave men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces,” Pruitt wrote. “It would be a sad irony if our service men and women were not afforded the same liberties for which they risk their lives.

“We have filed this brief supporting Ms. Sterling’s appeal because her case could impact the religious freedom of Oklahomans serving in the military. Oklahoma is keenly interested in the outcome of this case and its interpretation of federal law protecting religious liberty.”