Chaplain booted over praying ‘in Jesus’ name’ goes to Supremes

By Bob Unruh


The U.S. Navy chaplain who was removed from the military for disobeying a “lawful” order banning prayer “in Jesus’ name” has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and overturn a decade of rulings in his case.

The petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court was filed by attorney John B. Wells on behalf of Gordon J. Klingenschmitt.

His case was filed back in 2011, after his removal from the military over the issue of praying “in Jesus’ name” sparked years of battles.

Since his removal, Klingenschmitt has been leading the ministry, and he also has been serving as a representative of the people of Colorado in the state legislature.

“It’s been 10 years since the Navy punished me as a chaplain, for quoting ‘exclusive’ Bible verses in chapel during optional Christian worship, for praying ‘in Jesus’ name’ in uniform outside of chapel, for ‘worshiping in public’ which a Navy judge ruled illegal, and for blowing the whistle by writing to my congressman and the president,” Klingenschmitt told WND.

“No judge in my case, civilian or military, has ever once defended the Constitution as they and I swore an oath to do. I pray the Supreme Court of the United States will be the first to hear my case, and grant or petition for writ of certiorari, and finally rule the First Amendment protects military chaplains’ rights to pray and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

WND’s acclaimed Whistleblower magazine shows in its powerfully moving April issue, “PERSECUTION RISING,” how today’s treatment of Christians in many nations is disturbingly reminiscent of the brutal persecution of the early followers of Christ.

“If they let such egregious violations stand, then Christ’s gospel is no longer free to be preached without government punishments in America.”

WND reported when the case was filed that there were a series of violations of his religious rights, including:

“1. As a Navy chaplain in 2004, I was unlawfully punished by my ship’s commanding officer with a downgraded evaluation because I quoted ‘exclusive’ Bible verses including John 3:36 in the chapel during an optionally attended Saturday Christian memorial service.

“2. As a whistleblower in 2005, I was unlawfully punished by my subsequent shore commanding officer with a downgraded evaluation because I wrote to the president and to my congressman alleging that senior naval officers, including the chief of naval chaplains, had violated the Constitution by forbidding public prayers ‘in Jesus’ name.’

“3. After the Navy issued a bad policy (that was later rescinded by Congress due to my case), SECNAVINST 1730.7C, that required ‘non-sectarian’ prayers (no-Jesus) and narrowly re-defined ‘public worship’ and ‘religious observance,’ I was unlawfully punished at misdemeanor court-martial in 2006, for wearing my uniform while ‘worshiping in public’ and praying ‘in Jesus’ name’ outside the White House. I had been given prior written permission to wear my uniform during any ‘religious observance’ but the judge ruled instead to enforce SECNAVINST 1730.7C, saying I was ‘not engaged in ‘public worship,’ although he may be worshiping in public.’ The bad prayer policy was the basis of the ‘lawfulness’ of the order I was found guilty of violating.”

Klingenschmitt was an Air Force major who volunteered to take a lower rank to become a chaplain in the Navy, faced opposition to his expressions of Christianity almost as soon as he made the move.

His complaint explains that as early as 1998 he saw a memo from the former chief of Navy chaplains condemning those who prayed publicly “in Jesus’ name” as incompetent. Then in 2004, the commanding officer of the USS Anzio punished him for quoting “exclusive” Bible verses that state Jesus is the only way to God.

The next year, he was given a “downgraded” fitness report based on his religious beliefs, and the same year the commanding officer told the Navy not to renew his contract.

What do YOU think? Should the military dictate chaplains’ prayers and sermons? Sound off in today’s WND poll.

Eventually he faced a court-martial over the issue of praying in Jesus name in his uniform in public.

On his website, Klingenschmitt explained he later was vindicated by Congress, which “rebuked” the Navy by rescinding the policy under which he was prosecuted.

The move restored “liberty to all chaplains to pray freely ‘in Jesus’ name,’ even in uniform, seven days a week,” he said. But the congressional action did not make the restoration retroactive, meaning his court-martial and discharge from the Navy were not automatically reversed.

The submission to the Supreme Court explains, “Faith based discrimination is not only illegal it is wrong. Whether the motives of the Navy were based on religious beliefs or other reason is not relevant. The actions taken were improper under the federal Constitution and law and under the official doctrines of almost all faiths.”

It said, “The military effectively took a black magic marker and drew a line through the religious expression portions of the First Amendment. … Is is the place of this court, and only this court, to establish a proper balancing test. Certainly the rights of a chaplain should be at the apogee of this test while operational limitations on the chaplains religious expression should be at its perigree.”

The petition explains lower courts gave excessive “deference” to the military.

“While unusual deference makes sense in some situations, such as combat decisdions, deployment of forces, weapons selection and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the absence of a strategic, tactical or operational bsais for the … decision calls into question the need. … on administrative matters, a military department is like any other governmental agency.”

In a lower court, Judge Elaine Kaplan noted it was actually because the Navy decided not to recertify Klingenschmitt as a chaplain that he was seperated from the military.

In her decision from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, she sided with the military which has found an event Klingenschmitt particpated was political, not religious.

WND’s acclaimed Whistleblower magazine shows in its powerfully moving April issue, “PERSECUTION RISING,” how today’s treatment of Christians in many nations is disturbingly reminiscent of the brutal persecution of the early followers of Christ.


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