Rutledge Urges Court to Protect Marine’s Religious Expression

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January 07, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined with nine States to file an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces asking to correct a misinterpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Our country guarantees the right of religious freedom to all citizens, including those who wear the nation’s uniform,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Congress established the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect religious liberty, but a ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals incorrectly narrows the circumstances in which the act’s safeguards would apply. Along with my colleagues, I hope the Court of Appeals will swiftly recognize that a Marine’s decision to post biblical verses around her workspace is precisely the type of religious activity RFRA was intended to protect.”

On Oct. 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces granted review in United States v. Sterling, the court martial of Marine Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling, whose workplace allowed other service members to have personal items in their workspaces but punished her for posting Biblical verses at her desk. The lower courts ruled that RFRA did not apply because posting a Bible verse does not constitute “religious exercise” protected by that law.

Oklahoma and Nevada are leading the effort and along with Arkansas are joined by Arizona, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to reverse the misinterpretation of RFRA by recognizing that the challenged conduct is an exercise of religion under the law.

In the brief, the attorneys general said, “‘Exercise of religion’ includes any practice that is at least in part motivated by religion or engaged in for religious reasons. Even under the First Amendment, a practice is protected as religious exercise so long as it is ‘rooted in religion’ and not ‘purely secular.’”

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. Elected on Nov. 4, 2014, she is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected to the office.

Rutledge, a native of Batesville, Arkansas, is a graduate of Southside High School, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. She began her legal career as Clerk for Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Josephine Hart, now Associate Justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. She was appointed Deputy Counsel for Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and later served as Legal Counsel on the Mike Huckabee for President Campaign. She served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and in subsequent service as Attorney for the State of Arkansas’s Division of Children and Family Services. She also served as Deputy Counsel at the National Republican Congressional Committee before joining the Republican National Committee as Counsel. Prior to her election as Attorney General, she founded and practiced law at The Rutledge Firm, PLLC. Rutledge lives in Little Rock.