Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt
A Navy chaplain has pleaded not guilty at his court-martial today to a charge of disobeying orders by wearing his uniform at a protest on the steps of the White House in which he prayed “in Jesus name.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, Lt. Gordon J. Klingenschmitt was at the White House March 30 with former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore to protest Navy policy requiring nonsectarian prayers outside of worship services.
Klingenschmitt had been ordered not to wear his uniform during media appearances without permission, unless he was conducting a “bona fide worship service.”
The chaplain, ordained in the Evangelical Episcopal Church, insists the March 30 event qualified.
Moore, who is scheduled to testify on Klingenschmitt’s behalf tomorrow, said President Bush “should become involved to protect our chaplains in their right to pray in the name of Jesus.”
“In so doing, he would be upholding the religious freedom of all Americans,” Moore said.
Moore, who lost the Republican primary for Alabama governor in June, drew national attention in 2003 when he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse rotunda, resulting in his removal from the court.
Klingenschmitt could forfeit two-thirds of his pay per month for one year and receive a reprimand if convicted.
The chaplain is promoting a bill in Congress he says aims to overrule a policy passed by the secretary of the Navy that requires nonsectarian prayers.
The Navy secretary, Klingenschmitt said, is “deliberately censoring the content of our prayers.”
In his court martial, he says, a Navy judge is enforcing a new policy, declaring worshipping in public is not the same as public worship.
The judge, refusing Klingenschmitt’s motion earlier this month to drop the case, concluded chaplains are protected only inside the chapel on Sunday morning. If ordered not to worship in public, and they disobey, chaplains can be punished at a criminal court martial.
“There is no more fundamental right than the inalienable right to worship our creator, and I pray in Jesus name,” Klingenschmitt said. “For any government official to require nonsectarian prayers is for him to enforce his government religion upon me, to censor exclude and punish me for my participation.”
Klingenschmitt said all religious faiths represented in the military “should take turns and share the prayer.”
The officer, who earlier this year staged an 18-day hunger strike to protest the Navy prayer policy, also has filed a whistleblower complaint with Congress because of his commander’s criticism that preaching about Jesus is “exclusive” and it offended people.
The case 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 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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