AUSTIN – Leading a coalition of 14 states, Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed in the U.S. Supreme Court an amicus brief in support of the petition for a writ of certiorari in United States v. Sterling. The petition requests review of a lower court’s decision upholding the conviction of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, who was court-martialed for refusing an order to remove copies of a Bible verse from her personal workspace.
Attorney General Paxton and the other state attorneys general maintain that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces should have accepted the legal argument that Sterling’s right to exercise religion is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 – a federal law that should apply to military members as it does to civilians.
“Religious freedom for America’s military men and women, including many Texas citizens, is at stake in this case, making it vital for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Attorney General Paxton said. “It is unacceptable for the government to flatly prohibit a common form of religious activity and face no scrutiny under the RFRA. The free exercise of religion is as significant and equal as other individual rights, and those imposing a burden on this right must be held accountable.”
Sterling was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2013 when she printed a version of Isaiah 54:17, “No weapons formed against me shall prosper,” and taped it to three different places around her workspace. Her supervisor complained about the “tone” of the messages and ordered her to remove them. The next day, Sterling discovered that the Bible verses professing her faith had been torn down and thrown in the trash. She re-posted them and was subsequently charged with the crime of failing to obey a direct order.
Joining Texas on the petition for a writ of certiorari are Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.
To view a copy of the petition, click here.