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Should Marine who criticized Obama on Facebook be punished?

March 22, 2012 | 12:03 pm

Gary SteinA 26-year-old sergeant and Iraq veteran who made "political statements" about President Obama on Facebook is in the process of being dismissed from the Marine Corps.

Gary Stein put comments on the Armed Forces Tea Party page that said he would not follow unlawful orders from President Obama, such as killing Americans or taking guns away from Americans.

Such comments are considered detrimental to "good order and discipline" under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

He also criticized comments made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Syria.

Military law prohibits uniformed personnel from making comments critical of their chain of command, including the commander-in-chief, or engaging in political activity in a context that suggests they are acting as military members.

Talk back LAThe Marine Corps announced that rather than file charges, the matter is being handled through administrative channels. He may be dismissed or demoted.

Stein, a weather specialist assigned to Camp Pendleton, told the Associated Press he plans to fight the Marine Corps' intention to dismiss him.

"I'm completely shocked that this is happening," he said. "I've done nothing wrong. I've only stated what our oath states: That I will defend the Constitution and that I will not follow unlawful orders. If that's a crime, what is America coming to?"

His most recent postings came during a Facebook discussion about events in Afghanistan. In one posting, he said he believes that military personnel should be allowed to express their political opinions because they are required to risk their lives to advance political objectives.

On L.A. Now, several commenters noted that all military personnel take an Oath of Enlistment in which they swear to support and defend the Constitution and "that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same." They also promise to obey the orders of the president.

Others said that even civilians who publicly criticize their bosses on Facebook could face firing if they are undermining their superiors.

What do you think? Should Stein be allowed to make such public statements? Should he be disciplined? And if you think he should be disciplined, what is the appropriate action?

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-- Kimi Yoshino and Tony Perry

Photo: Sgt. Gary Stein. Credit: Associated Press

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