Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt
A jury of U.S. Naval officers has recommended a reprimand and a $250 fine per month for a year for a Christian chaplain who was convicted of disobeying an order not to wear his military uniform for media appearances.
However, the jury also recommended the fine be suspended.
Chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt was convicted of the count, even though he charged that the White House appearance at which he prayed “in Jesus’ name” was a bona fide religious event and he had written permission from his commander to wear his uniform at such events.
According to a report in the Virginian-Pilot, Cmdr. Rex Guinn said the government’s case had been documented.
“We are pleased with the results and justice is done,” he said.
Klingenschmitt had faced a maximum punishment of a reprimand, restriction to base for two months and fines or forfeiture of pay of nearly $42,000 – two-thirds of his annual salary, officials said.
Klingenschmitt’s military lawyer, Lt. Tiffany Hansen, had told the jury that a conviction was enough.
“There was no financial gain as a result of him doing what he did,” she said.
“Doing what he did,” was to appear at a news conference at the White House with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a WND columnist, to protest a new Naval directive that called for all prayers to be “nonsectarian.”
Klingenschmitt told WND that he had been given written permission to wear his uniform at bona fide religious events, and that’s what he considered the March 30 appearance. He said he took off his uniform before answering media questions that day.
Bush’s spokesman, Tony Snow, today responded to a WND question about the issue, saying, “The president believes the chaplains ought to be able to be free to express to their religious beliefs, and he further believes in allowing the military to handle its own issues.”
Klingenschmitt had rested the case without calling any witnesses, one of whom was scheduled to be Moore, because of the biblical injunction in Isaiah, where the prophecy about Jesus says he “was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth.”
He also said there is an appeal process that will be followed.
Judge Moore, who lost his own job over his refusal to obey a federal judge’s order that conflicted with constitutional authority and remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building, had been set to testify about the White House assembly.
The chaplain also is promoting a bill in Congress he says aims to overrule that new 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 said, the Navy judge enforced that policy by 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 non-sectarian prayers is for him to enforce his government religion upon me, to censor, exclude and punish me for my participation”
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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