AUSTIN – Texas
Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme
Court in the case of Monifa Sterling v. the United States.
brief, which includes Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan,
Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and
West Virginia, asks the Supreme Court to review the decision of the
United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces' Aug. 10 ruling
In the brief, the filing parties argue that the
United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces misunderstood the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act and wrongly applied it in their ruling
against Sterling. According to a press release issued by Paxton's
office, Sterling was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2013
and had pasted a Bible verse, which she was asked to remove. The verse
was removed the next day and she was charged with failing to obey a
direct order when she reposted them.
In the brief, the parties
filing argue that to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the
court of appeals did not have to ask the importance of religious
exercises, that the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
had no right to ask the religious importance of Sterling's religious
practice of posting the Bible verse in her work space, and that the
United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces did not use First
Amendment case law correctly in its decision.
Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller, who is listed as counsel of record on the amicus brief, told The Record a similar coalition, including a lot of the same states, filed an amicus brief at the court of appeals phase of the case.
now, this case is about whether a court should take a very close look
at Sterling’s dismissal," Keller said via email. "That legal issue could
have broad ramifications for all sorts of religious exercise because it
will tell courts how closely they should monitor and scrutinize burdens
In its Aug. 10 decision, the Court of Appeals for
the Armed Forces argued that Sterling failed in her argument that the
order from her commanding officer to remove the posted Bible verse
substantially burdened her free exercise of religion. The Court of
Appeals for the Armed Forces argued in that decision that she failed in
her argument because she did not let her commanding officer know that
she had the Bible verse up in her work space because of her religion and
that she did not seek religious accommodation in order to keep her
Bible verses hanging.
In the amicus brief, the parties filing
argue that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces misused First
Amendment precedent in its ruling that the substantial-burden
requirement of the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, in which strict
scrutiny is placed on all federal government acts that substantially
burden a person's free practice of religion, depends on whether the
government coerces action that violates a person's faith.
significant number of states signals to the Supreme Court that this is
an important issue beyond just the facts of Sterling’s particular case,"
Sterling, with the help of First Liberty, appealed the Aug.10 decision to the Supreme Court on Dec. 23.
are supporting Sterling’s call to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear her
appeal," Keller said. "However, this case is currently focused on asking
the Court to review [whether a court should take a very close look at Sterling’s dismissal],
not to definitively rule on her underlying dismissal."
The entire amicus brief is available at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.