Leesburg Regional Medical Center
Dozens of Christian churches ranging from Catholic to Pentecostal in theology are rallying this weekend in Leesburg, Fla., under the name of Jesus, after a local chaplain was dismissed from the Leesburg Regional Medical Center for praying in His name.
“This is not a protest or march against the hospital, or for [Chaplain] Danny Harvey,” John Kimer, one of the pastors at Grace Tabernacle, where Harvey is an elder, told WND. “We’re uniting all the churches under the name of Jesus Christ. We have almost every denomination in this area, and we’re coming together under one name, which is Jesus.”
“This is a silent march. We won’t be carrying signs,” he said. The only statement that is being made is the shirts marchers will wear – 500 distributed so far and more needed. They will state “United” on the front, and “My Jesus, My Freedom, My Stand” on the back. The two-mile event will begin at the Leesburg City Hall at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
In a scenario reminiscent of Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who was removed from the military service because of his prayers “in Jesus’ name,” Harvey recently was “involuntarily terminated,” according to a hospital letter.
He said his supervisor had called him into her office, and ordered that not only would he not prayer further “in Jesus’ name,” but that he was to instruct his volunteer chaplains to follow the same restriction.
Hospital officials weren’t available to return a WND request for comment, but Kimer said the name of Jesus is central to Christianity, and that’s why the multi-denomination rally is planned.
“We’re proud of the name Jesus, to pray in Jesus’ name, have Jesus as our Saviour. We want to communicate that to the public,” Kimer said.
He said Harvey’s situation “woke the rest of the churches up to what was happening.”
Klingenschmitt noted that there are court cases already going on in several locations over the use by a Christian chaplain of the use of the words, “in Jesus’ name.”
“Now the American people are rising to defend chaplains who pray in Jesus name. The public outcry against the hospital was so great the CEO already had to resign,” he said.
Hospital officials also just announced the departure of president Louis Bremer, but said it was because he felt it was time to seek new opportunities, not because of the public reaction to the dismissal of Harvey.
The hospital said it dismissed Harvey from his $48,000-a-year post not because he was praying in the name of Jesus Christ, “but [because] the official duties of a paid position were not being met. Those duties include being respectful of the different religious beliefs of our patients and the ability to lead them in their faith in their time of need.”
Hospital officials told a newspaper guidelines from the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education teach respect for all religions.
Harvey told WND as a Christian chaplain, he routinely supported other faiths, such as Islam, expressed by patients by getting them access to someone who could help them directly with their needs.
“There are some things I can’t do as an evangelical pastor. For example, I can’t offer certain things of the Catholic faith, including confession. I would get a Catholic priest,” he said.
He said the issue first arose several years ago when he was asked to pray over the opening of a new hospital unit. He was told he would not be allowed to include “in Jesus’ name.”
He objected, and was ordered to take a diversity course, which he did.
Then at a staff meeting in August, he closed with a prayer in the name of Jesus, he said.
“That’s what sparked this issue. I have written documentation. I was pulled into the office on Friday and told ‘Under no circumstances will you pray in this name again,'” he said. “I said, ‘I can’t abide by your wishes.’ She also told me I should tell my volunteer chaplains they shouldn’t pray in Jesus name either. About four or five days later, I was relieved of my duties.”
David Johnson, a member of the Association of Professional Chaplains’ ethics committee, said chaplains in such situations have to set aside their own religious faith to serve the people around them.
However, Harvey said he affiliated with the International Association of Christian Chaplains, not the professional organization, because the professional group also recognizes belief systems that Christianity does not allow.
In Klingenschmitt’s case, the Navy convicted him of failing to follow a lawful order because his superior didn’t want him praying “in Jesus’ name.” But when Congress got word of his $3,000 fine for his prayer, members ordered the Navy to remove the limitation and allow chaplains to pray as their “conscience dictates.”
However, the provision was not made retroactive, and Klingenschmitt eventually was removed from the military over the issue, a move he is contesting in the legal system.
Klingenschmitt also told WND he’s working on a 50-state tour, to pray “in Jesus’ name” at each state Legislature, and is seeking church and legislative sponsors for his work.
“The Constitution is clear about the fact that the government is prohibited from establishing a religion,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the the Rutherford Institute. “Furthermore, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that all citizens have a fundamental right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and that includes military service people.”
The civil rights complaint stems from a 1998 memo issued by the Navy Chief of Chaplains that discouraged them from invoking the name of Jesus in their prayers. “This instruction was later embodied in an instruction from the secretary of the Navy, which provided that religious elements for a command function, absent extraordinary circumstances, should be non-sectarian in nature,” the lawsuit said.
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