In our last Saturday class for EDLP 705, we analyzed a case study in which we discussed personal and professional codes of ethics. The case study focused on the outrage of a parent who discovered on a social website, a picture of her child’s teacher holding what appears to be an alcoholic drink. Without going into the details of the case study, the question about personal and professional ethics comes into focus, more specifically, when does one’s professional life end and personal life begin?
Just a few days ago, I read an online article that spoke to this issue of personal versus professional ethics. The story involves a U.S Marine, Sgt. Gary Stein, who started a Facebook page called Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots, and used it to publically speak out against the President. The paged was created, Stein argues, to encourage service members to exercise their free speech rights.
Free speech is an essential freedom every American has a right to, and privilege to enjoy; however, is the line crossed when free speech violates military rules? Sgt. Stein was free to exercise his free speech up until the point he indicated on his Facebook page that he would not follow orders from the commander in chief, President Barack Obama. Although Stein later qualified his statement by saying he would not follow “unlawful orders,” military observers, including myself, say he may have gone too far.
Military rules, according to Pentagon directives, prohibit political statements by those in uniform and military personnel. Military personnel are not allowed to sponsor a political club, participate in a public forum that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Furthermore, and more importantly to me, commissioned officers cannot use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the president.
An opponent of Stein’s Facebook page, former Navy officer and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, David Glazier, believes that not only does his page break military rules, but undermines the “good order and discipline required by the military to maintain respect for the chain of command.” He continues by saying that “I think that it’s been pretty well established for a long time that freedom of speech is one area in which people do surrender some of their basic rights in entering the armed forces.” Stein and his supporters say his views are constitutionally protected, and that he respects the office of the presidency, but he does not agree with Obama’s policies.
What this article reveals, like the case study in class, is that the lines between our personal and professional life often blurs, but as leaders in our community and in the work place, we must continually be cognizant of those boundaries at all times.