Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt
Lawyers for an Evangelical Episcopal Church priest who has served as a U.S. Navy chaplain argued on Monday that the court-martial counts against him are unfair and should be dismissed.
Gordon James Klingenschmitt is charged with refusing to follow an order and wearing his uniform at a March 30 event in Washington, D.C., where he prayed on the steps of the White House.
However, he has argued that he’s being punished for praying “in Jesus name” during the March 30 event with former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. He also told the congregation at the funeral of an accident victim the man had given his life to “Christ.”
Klingenschmitt told WorldNetDaily after Monday’s hearing at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., that his commander testified that all Klingenschmitt did during the Washington event was to say prayers, except that he also was guilty of “mugging for the camera” in between the invocation and benediction.
He also told WND that a public affairs specialist in his command admitted that Admiral F.R. Ruehe, who rejected earlier requests to dismiss the charges, was involved in a series of press releases that involved Klingenschmitt when the case first developed.
And he said his lawyer was able to obtain and release a series of emails in which the Commander of Navy Installations ordered Ruehe to keep Klingenschmitt quiet and out of the news.
“There were no decisions,” Klingenschmitt said. “The judge is considering all five motions and will rule later.”
He said the judge could ask for more testimony, dismiss the case outright, or continue it.
Klingenschmitt said his punishment was begun by his superior officer, Capt. James R. Carr, and that decision was affirmed by officers higher up in rank, after he continued to pray ‘in Jesus name.’
The chaplain, who earlier this summer staged an 18-day hunger strike to protest a new prayer policy authorizing only generic prayers, also has filed a whistleblower complaint with Congress because of his commander’s criticism that preaching about Jesus is “exclusive” and that offended people.
Klingenschmitt told WND the Navy’s new prayer policy, essentially, allows only generic prayer, contrary to historical practice and instructions from Congress.
The order not to pray in Jesus name was inappropriate, Klingenschmitt’s motion to dismiss argued, because federal law “expressly protects a chaplain’s right to ‘conduct public worship according to the manner and forms of the church of which he is a member.'”
The case also falls under the “whistleblower” framework because the restrictions were imposed only on Klingenschmitt shortly after he had contacted Congress and the president about the issues.
Several dozen other chaplains also have joined together in a civilian lawsuit that alleges the Navy hierarchy allows only those Christian ministers who advocate only non-sectarian blandishments to be promoted. Those with evangelical beliefs, they say, are routinely drummed from the Navy.
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