Friday, August 11, 2006

"The J Word" Illegal among US Navy Chaplains?

Previously on the 522: Christianity is Being Criminalized in the US Navy.

From World Net Daily ... Praying Chaplain Faces Court Date.

A priest in the Evangelical Episcopal Church who has served as a U.S. Navy chaplain is asking a military court to dismiss a series of complaints filed against him after he was caught praying in "Jesus" name.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled Monday for Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who is accused of participating in a March 30 event with former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in front of the White House. He's also accused of telling the congregation at the funeral of an accident victim the man had given his life to "Christ."

Lt. Klingenschmitt told WorldNetDaily he prayed at the White House event, as historically has been allowed for military chaplains, but didn't express political or other views while in uniform. And at the funeral, he talked about the victim's faith.

"I was preaching at a memorial service, honoring the Christian faith of the deceased sailor, saying he's in heaven today because of his faith in Jesus Christ," Klingenschmitt said.

He said his superior officer, Capt. James R. Carr, then punished him for speaking about Jesus, and that decision was affirmed by officers higher up in rank.

Monday, his lawyer will argue in the hearing at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., that his commander's order that he not wear his uniform and speak of Jesus was illegal, that his prosecutors and judges so far, in fact, have been the same people, and the Navy has refused to document evidence in the case.

The chaplain, who earlier this year staged an 18-day hunger strike to protest the military's new prayer policy, also has filed a whistleblower complaint with Congress because of his commander's criticism that preaching about Jesus is "exclusive" and that offended people.

Klingenschmitt told WND the new prayer policy, essentially, allows only generic prayer.

The order not to pray in Jesus name was inappropriate, Klingenschmitt's motion to dismiss argues, because federal law "expressly protects a chaplain's right to 'conduct public worship according to the manner and forms of the church of which he is a member.'"

"The very symbol upon the Chaplain's uniform, a cross to symbolize his Christian faith, implies that his public religious speech during public prayer is not the 'official view of the government,' yet still permitted in the uniform," the motion says. "For the government to attempt to punish a chaplain for publicly saying two prayers and reading from the Bible in uniform would impermissibly violate the chaplain's right protected by the U.S. Code to speak as an officer specifically commissioned to represent the official views and worship style of his church."

When Klingenschmitt was told not to wear a uniform at a church service, "his rights to the free exercise of religion, speech, to assemble and petition the government were all impermissibly restricted," the motion says.

The order also violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it said. During a court challenge to that law, the federal court's conclusion was that an attempt to prevent military chaplains from discussing "political" issues violated the First Amendment.

"What we have here is the government's attempt to override the Constitution and the laws of the land by a directive that clearly interferes with military chaplains' free exercise and free speech rights," the decision said.

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.

It was during this process and following his complaints that the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure permitting chaplains to pray "according to the dictates of their conscience."

Another six dozen chaplains also have joined together 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.

The lieutenant's second motion to dismiss is based on the fact that the charges against Klingenschmitt were filed under the general supervision of an admiral who clearly had an interest in the case.

"Not only has ADM (F.R.) Ruehe been the decision-making authority for previous complaints filed by Chaplain Klingenschmitt, but he also is currently the subject of several official complaints made against him personally … by Chaplain Klingenschmitt," the motion says.

The motions, prepared by Lt. Tiffany Hansen, JAG, and civilian defense counsel William J. Holmes, conclude with a motion noting that the government has declined to provide emails that were exchanged among the officers involved in disciplining Klingenschmitt unless he paid a fee in excess of $47,000.

The conversations among officers that led to Klingenschmitt's various punishments certainly are pertinent to making judgments on those actions, his motion says.