Tea Party Marine Sticks by His Guns in Fight With Government and Obama

Sgt. Gary Stein

Sgt. Gary Stein  (Gary Stein)

A U.S. Marine whose Facebook posts led to a refresher course last week on the Pentagon's directives on political activities is not running for cover as he continues to post or support material critical of the government and President Obama.

Sgt. Gary Stein created the Facebook group "Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots" four weeks ago to voice his opposition to Obama's health care overhaul. Superior officers asked the 24-year-old Marine to review directives on political activities before he was interviewed on TV, and Stein removed the Facebook group -- only to see it revived by a civilian member of a local Tea Party group hours later. Stein now serves as an administrator of the group, which has more than 9,100 members, including some soldiers on active duty.

According to Department of Defense directives, military personnel on active duty are prohibited from sponsoring a political club, writing anything that solicits votes for a political cause or speaking at any event that promotes a political movement. They may also not participate in any "radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause" or distribute "partisan political" literature.

In one of his recent posts to the Facebook group, Stein asked members to voice their opposition to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, a Senate financial overhaul bill introduced by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

"In short it grants permanent, unlimited bailout authority to the Federal Reserve," Stein wrote on Tuesday. "It's like TARP forever without the nasty, unpopular debates and votes in Congress."

He provided contact information to eight Republican senators who have "not yet 100% opposed" the bill and asked members of the Facebook group to spread the word to local newspapers.

"Once again it's up to us, you and your fellow Tea Party Patriots, to defend America from out of control government," wrote Stein, who lives in Temecula, Calif., with his wife, Ashley, and their 2-year-old daughter. He is a meteorologist for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. 

Attorney Eugene Fidell, a senior research scholar who teaches military law at the Yale Law School, said that while military brass tend to "avoid creating martyrs" regarding issues of free speech, Stein should seek legal advice.

"This young man should consult an attorney," Fidell told FoxNews.com. "He's tempting fate here. But that's the territory. You can do it, but you may pay a penalty."

The Facebook group Stein created carries a disclaimer that any views expressed on the page are "not endorsed or shared by the Military or the [Department of Defense]." It also includes at least 100 photos, including a satirical shot of President Obama on a fictitious "Dancing With The Czars" advertisement, complete with inset photos of celebrity judges Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., White House reporter Helen Thomas and actor David Hasselhoff. Another altered photograph depicts Obama with a large red "X" over his mouth and the word "LIAR" across his forehead, while a graphic depicts the "socialist brain of the liberal Democrat."

Yet another graphic on the page recalls Obama's reported mispronunciation of the word "corpsman" while speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in February.

"What's your major malfunction numbnuts?" reads the graphic, which features the vociferous drill sergeant from the 1987 war classic "Full Metal Jacket." "You're a Harvard grad and don't know the difference between CORPS and CORPSE? You flunked lunch at Harvard, didn't you?"

Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Maj. Gabrielle Chapin told FoxNews.com last week that the Marine Corps had not filed charges against Stein. She said Stein was not disciplined, and he received the same "one-on-one mentorship and guidance" provided to all Marines.

Camp Pendleton officials on Wednesday referred inquiries to the Department of Defense, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Stein says he's confident he will not be reprimanded by the military, but he acknowledges that his outspokenness may hurt his military career. He insists that his participation in the Facebook group remains as a civilian.

"It was written by Gary Stein," he said. "People need to understand this. When I post something on the Facebook page, it is as Gary Stein and has nothing do with the Marine Corps and has nothing to do with Sgt. Gary Stein. As long as I'm coming to the people as Gary Stein, then I'm OK."

In a statement released on Tuesday, Stein commented on remarks made by former President Clinton that antigovernment rhetoric can lead to violent results.

"The Tea Party movement does not condone the formation of violent militias or individuals that are plotting against the government. This 'Revolution,' that we speak of is when history will repeat itself as the American people, once again, unite to fight for their freedom. This time we will be fighting on a new battlefield without bloodshed, but the result will be the same," Stein wrote.

Stein told FoxNews.com on Wednesday that he released his latest statement to counter critics who suggested that "silence" from Tea Party members regarding antigovernment rhetoric could be construed as condoning those messages. Stein, who remains on active duty until July 2012, said he did not consult an attorney prior to releasing his statement.

"I wanted to make sure our views are heard," he said. "I wanted to make sure that if any Tea Party went on the record that it was the Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots."

Stein said he's received hundreds of e-mails from active and retired servicemembers on his postings. Every "single one, except one," Stein said, supported his right to speak out. The lone dissenter, a fellow Marine, claimed Stein is "making a mockery" of the Marines, he said. 

Asked if he's considering a career in politics after he leaves the military, Stein said nothing is out of consideration.

"President Obama was a community organizer and now he's president of the United States," he said. "Anything can happen. I know there's a lot bigger and better things out there for me."