An openly lesbian federal judge whose appointment was opposed by dozens of U.S. senators has ruled against a Christian former Navy chaplain who alleged his superiors engineered his dismissal from the service because he was not “ecumenical.”
The decision by Elaine Kaplan of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims rejected the allegations of former chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who recently was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives.
He had routinely prayed “in Jesus name” as part of his work as a chaplain.
The judge, who formerly worked for the National Treasury Employees Union, was opposed by 35 GOP senators when she was appointed by President Obama.
The Washington Blade, a homosexual-advocacy publication, quoted Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign praising Kaplan’s confirmation.
“LGBT people are increasingly visible in all areas of public service, but as a community that so deeply cherishes the virtues of fairness and equality, there is a unique power in seeing role models like Kaplan preside over a court of law,” Sainz said.
In her profile on the federal court system website, Kaplan notes she resides in Washington “with her partner.”
She also explains her legal background includes “civil rights” work.
Klingenschmitt told WND he likely will appeal the decision.
“Is anybody surprised that a new Obama appointee and liberal judge ruled that a Navy chaplain can be legally punished for his sermons, punished for writing to Congress, and punished for praying in Jesus’ name in uniform?” he asked.
“Although Judge Elaine Kaplan ruled against me, at least she affirmed how I was vindicated by the U.S. Congress, who rescinded [military regulation] 1730.7C after it was enforced against me in the Navy court,” he continued.
“She also admitted in her ruling that the government really did punish me, a Navy chaplain, for quoting the Bible in chapel, which would be protected by the First Amendment, but this judge refused to correct the Navy’s obvious abuse of power.
“She also acknowledged that I had written permission to wear my uniform during ‘public worship’ but that my prayers offered in Jesus’ name at a press conference did not qualify as ‘public worship,'” he said.
“Finally, she acknowledged I was punished for writing to my congressman and the president, but again claimed she didn’t have jurisdiction to enforce whistleblower laws. My lawyer and I plan to immediately appeal this bad ruling, and again later if necessary all the way to the Supreme Court,” Klingenschmitt told WND.
Klingenschmitt claims the Navy acted in violation of his constitutional rights when officials refused to re-certify him as a chaplain and launched proceedings to dismiss him.
It was in 2006 when WND reported Klingenschmitt was dismissed from the Navy when he insisted his religious-freedom rights allowed him to pray “in Jesus name,” which conflicted with Navy policy requiring chaplains not to reference Jesus in their prayers.
Congress later told the Navy to rescind the policy, and Klingenschmitt, then a lieutenant in the service, hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.
However, the Navy ultimately succeeded in removing him from its ranks.
The judge explained his removal from the military was because of Klingenschmitt’s “loss” of his “ecclesiastical endorsement” from the Evangelical Episcopal Church denomination. However, Klingenschmitt had resigned from the denomination and notified the military within a few days of a new endorsement from the Full Gospel Churches.
The Evangelical Episcopal Church later notified the Navy it was dropping its sponsorship of Klingenschmitt.
Klingenchmitt’s case seeks reinstatement and back pay because of alleged discrimination and retaliation by superior officers under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act and others.
Technically, the judge granted the government’s motion for a judgment on the case’s administrative record and her determination her court lacked jurisdiction over some issues.
The judge cited the Navy’s complaints that Klingenschmitt, while serving on the USS Anzio, delivered “strident and negative” messages and the captain’s concerns that he had asked him to help with “‘inspiring sailors to reach for their better selves’ no matter what faith or believe system they practice.”
Essentially, the captain said, he wanted a more “ecumenical” message.
Klingenschmitt had responded that there were limits to how much he could “compromise.”
His Navy evaluations were step-by-step downgraded following the initial confrontation over faith, the judge’s ruling noted.
Ultimately, the dispute developed over whether Klingenschmitt could wear his Navy uniform while participating in public worship events. He was court-martialed for participating in one event, then walking away, removing identifying uniform components so as to not be “in uniform” and making statements to the press.
The judge’s opinion noted his commanders had recommended he not wear his uniform at the event but said he must make the decision.
He also posted statements on his website and wrote to Congress and the president concerning the pressure he felt to not pray “in Jesus name.”
His concerns also were rebuffed in the Navy appeals process, including his allegation of improper command influence because the officer who referred him for court-martial had been involved with his earlier concerns and objections.
His work as a state lawmaker will begin in January.
“I ran a positive, grassroots, door-to-door campaign. Volunteers went door-to-door, and I had 20 coffee events where I met the people face-to-face. The voters had a chance to meet me in person and find out that I’m a real person who is interested in their issues,” he told WND.
“At the same time, I declined several media interviews. I didn’t want to conduct the campaign through the media. There were some good, honest reporters, but most of the campaign was on the personal level,” Klingenschmitt said.
Overall, he said, the election was about the principles of liberty.
“My supporters were all people who believe in the Constitution, liberty, freedom and small government. That’s what the major national election was about. The people spoke and said they’re for smaller government and more liberty,” Klingenschmitt said.
The former chaplain has hosted a 30-minute daily television program on the NRB Network, DirecTV channel 378, called PIJN News. He said he will continue to do the show.
Klingenschmitt, who graduated from the Air Force Academy, holds a doctoral degree in theology.