From the San Diego Union Tribune: Marine scrutinized over Facebook page - SignOnSanDiego.com I'm going to wait and see if anyone catches the hypocrisy. Marine scrutinized over Facebook page Right to promote politics in question By Jeanette Steele, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 9:37 p.m. A Camp Pendleton Marine is running smack up against the limits of what uniform-wearing Americans are allowed to say about their government after his Facebook page for Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots sparked concern among his superiors Tuesday. Sgt. Gary Stein, 24, was set to do a television interview with MSNBC when he got called back to the base to go over the Pentagons directive on political activities. Stein chose to remove the page, launched three weeks ago, until he has reviewed his obligations under military code. The Marine said his supervisor advised him of his right to an attorney, but the Corps is not looking to file charges, said Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a Camp Pendleton spokeswoman. Tuesdays developments follow intense debate among Steins 400 or so Facebook fans about whether he is entitled to criticize President Barack Obamas policies while identifying himself as an active-duty Marine. During a morning interview, Stein said he believes he is allowed to post his opinions on the social-media site. Theres this illusion that when we sign our contract and voluntarily commit, that we lose our right to speak out, said Stein, who lives in Temecula with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter. Others on his site disagreed. A commenter named Patrick, who identified himself as an old Marine, wrote: When you signed that contract with We the People, you forfeited certain of your rights like I did and millions of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines before you. And if you feel that you have too much time on your hands to sit with a keyboard and Internet link-up and make common cause with other malcontents, then feel free to request a transfer. Stein a meteorologist for the bases 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said it was ire over Obamas health care reform efforts that pushed him to start the Facebook account. He said he didnt comment on military issues. Scott Downing, a career Army officer who was a frequent commenter on Steins page, backs up Stein. I disagree with several policies of President Obama, but I do not question his authority as commander in chief. I do not see where this is in conflict with my military oath, Downing said in an e-mail Tuesday. Service members do surrender some free-speech rights when they button a uniform, said former Marine Corps attorney Patrick Callahan, who now specializes in military law as a civilian lawyer in Texas. There are restrictions on time, place and manner. For instance, service members cant go to political rallies in uniform, Callahan said. The issue becomes whether somebody is doing it in their professional capacity. The Pentagons directive says military personnel cant write anything to solicit votes for a political cause, sponsor a political club or speak before any gathering that promotes a political movement. Callahan said the whole point of the Pentagon limiting political speech is to avoid the appearance that the military is trying to thwart the public process or plotting a coup. Stein said he checked with civilian attorneys for opinions during the past few weeks. He said they advised him he wasnt breaking any rules. Callahan doubts that Stein will be punished. I have never seen the military go after a junior service member for making disparaging remarks about any politician, Callahan said. The tea party, a grass-roots political phenomenon, generally calls for smaller government and lower taxes and was in part a reaction to public bailouts of the bank and automotive industries. The recently passed health care law is another popular target of this movement. Tuesday afternoon, a civilian member of a Temecula tea party group took up the Armed Forces Tea Party mantle on Facebook, saying that the voices of military members deserve to be heard. Chapin said base officials arent trying to censor Stein; they just didnt want him to run afoul of the rules. Marines take care of Marines, Chapin wrote in an e-mail. Sergeant Steins supervisor was concerned that his activities could give the appearance or impression that the Marine Corps is endorsing the group and its messages.