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|Navy Criminalizes Christianity|
Gordon James Klingenschmitt
Chaplain Court-Martialed for Praying “In Jesus’ Name”
Dear Concerned Friend,
As we joyfully embrace this Season of our Savior’s birth, the gavel’s ominous rap still echoes in my ears. Even now it’s hard for me to fully grasp that this could be happening to me in this Christian nation of ours. But it’s an inescapable fact: I’ve been found guilty of the “crime” of praying in Jesus’ name while in uniform.
But throughout this blessed Christmastide, I’m still striving to faithfully serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy – appealing a court-martial verdict that will cost me and my family everything. You see, the Navy just ordered me to separate from the service by 31 January 2007. They are hoping to permanently end my career after 15.5 years of award-winning evaluations. I’m losing my pension, and my family is now being evicted from military housing, without health care benefits, on the street in the cold.
I am writing to warn you: The day has dawned in America when it is criminally punishable to pray in Jesus’ name, to quote Scripture passages in a military chapel, to voice evangelical messages about Jesus. So I pray you’ll read my story, because your help is needed to right this wrong. Something much bigger than my personal situation is at risk. Precariously hanging in the balance is our Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion. And I am prepared to defend that vital principle all the way to the Supreme Court. But justice takes time. And money.
Select Here to make a tax-deductible donation to a Special Fund to Assist the Chaplain,
through the "In Jesus’ Name" Project of the Declaration Foundation.
Navy Criminalizes Christianity
No exaggeration, our Navy criminalized worshipping in public! In fact, the military judge more or less told me it’s a crime to pray in Jesus’ name outside of Sunday chapel, if your commander orders you to stop “worshipping in public” in uniform.
So I’m now a federal convict, guilty of a “speech crime” against the government, because I simply read a prayer in uniform!
Who will stop liberal judges from censoring our prayers? Will you? If so, I need you to stand with me and support my legal defense fund.
You see, if we don’t appeal this ruling, it remains the legal precedent future courts will use to punish other chaplains.
That’s the reason for this letter: So you and others will know the criminalization of Christianity is officially under way. This Orwellian, out-of-control “politically correct” agenda, now evident in the U.S. military, is soon headed your direction. Something must be done, and I am calling you to stand with me on God’s side. Please help defeat this threat and right this wrong by signing the enclosed petition to the Secretary of Defense. Anti-Christian liberals won’t be satisfied until God and the Bible are banished from our society and America is utterly transformed into a Jesus-free zone. And, right now, the U.S. Navy is playing into their hands.
Some flatter me as a modern-day Daniel because I faithfully pray in Jesus’ name. Let me assure you, I’m certainly no Daniel. As I told reporters after the guilty verdict, “Jesus was crucified, Peter and John were flogged, and I got a minor reprimand. I’ve not yet become a martyr for the faith.”
But I honor these Bible heroes, who refused to flinch when ordered not to pray. Daniel continued to do what he knew in his heart was right, regardless of the consequences. So did Peter and John, when the Pharisees “commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” These men obeyed God, and kept on praying and preaching in Jesus’ name. So must I. While I’m not in danger of being eaten alive in a lions den, politically correct wolves are howling for my hide. So please read on – but for your sake, not mine! As you do, please keep in mind that my gaveled “crime” is something you do daily – pray in Jesus’ name.
I believe God called me to serve as a chaplain. To step up to that role and as a Lieutenant in the Navy, I stepped down from the rank of Major in the U.S. Air Force back in 2002. I volunteered for that demotion in rank, and its significant pay cut, to answer God’s ministry call. The desire to do God’s will is still the driving purpose in my life. My heart’s desire was and is to help our men and women in uniform, to bring them the Lord’s comfort and mercy.
Navy Chaplains have prayed Christian prayers in public since 1775, and since 1860 federal law and regulation protected us: “An officer in the chaplain corps may conduct public worship according to the manner and forms of the church of which he is a member.” But the Navy recently has changed. What seemed an innocent “memo of suggestion” in 1998 by the former Chief of Navy Chaplains – that chaplains who pray in Jesus’ name “ought not participate” and either be censored or be excluded from public ceremonies – was strengthened into a repressive policy on February 21st, 2006.
As the Navy goes, so go all the other military branches. Atheists and liberals will make sure of that. That same month, the U.S. Air Force revised its “guidelines for religious expression,” reported in Jewish Week newspaper under the headline “Jesus barred from Air Force invocations.” If nobody had challenged this policy, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State would undoubtedly use this unholy precedent to subvert our God-given right to free exercise OF religion, into their coerced freedom FROM ANY religious expression – not just in the Navy but all over America.
Liberals and atheists especially can’t stand to hear the name of Jesus, because deep inside they know “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Remember: the ungodly want our children banned from saying “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in our public schools. Why? Because the mention of God might “offend.” Yet the ungodly care not how their anti-religious coercion hurts Christians. Their same pretext of being easily “offended” is abused in attempts to banish from our common life Ten Commandments plaques, crosses, and manger scenes across America.
Jesus taught us to forgive, to turn the other cheek. He also expects us to shine the light of His truth and dispel the darkness, so all will see that Christ is the way to God’s salvation. That’s why I continued to pray in Jesus’ name, even outside the chapel, even in public. And together we challenged the Navy’s illegal prayer policy. Over 300,000 people petitioned the President to intervene. Many more called Congress, and 75 Congressmen and 35 pro-family groups called for an executive order, which never happened. Then the House of Representatives passed a bill to strengthen the 1860 law which already allowed chaplains to pray according to their faith. That bill was blocked by liberals in the Senate.
Liberal politicians wanted to impose “theological sensitivity requirements” on the content of all chaplain prayers and sermons. If passed by this new House and Senate, they could make matters far worse, requiring the Pentagon to punish “insensitive” prayers. Five times the White House spokesman answered media questions about me. Five times he gave the same answer: “The President cares about chaplains, but he also wants the Pentagon to make their own policies on how they should pray.” Emboldened by Presidential inaction, the Navy passed the worst prayer policy in 231 years – SECNAVINST 1730.7C, which banned praying “in Jesus’ name” anywhere outside of Sunday chapel.
That Navy policy holds that uniform-wearing chaplains violate the law by worshipping in public. We can only pray in Jesus’ name and quote Bible passages in chapel on Sundays – the only time and place the Navy now protects “public worship.” The Navy’s top JAG investigator enforced that policy, ruling that I was “properly punished” for quoting the Bible in the chapel on a Saturday, during an optionally attended “Christian Memorial Service” to honor the faith of a deceased Sailor, a member of my flock. “That wasn’t public worship,” they told the newspapers.
The Navy defended my commander who punished me for quoting “offensive” Bible verses like John 3:36 in chapel, and for preaching that “Jesus is the way to heaven” in my sermon, ruling: “Lt Klingenschmitt was free to choose to deliver a message at the memorial service that, while being true to his own beliefs, could also have commanded the assent of the vast majority of his audience. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Klingenschmitt chose to deliver a message he knew to be, by his own description, ‘exclusive.’” – Navy JAG investigator
So they defended the skipper and punished the chaplain, taking a black-tip marker to my Bible, and banning John 3:36:“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Is this Bible verse too “exclusive” for Navy chapels? Are our Christian Sailors no longer entitled to a Christian burial? Should we stand and let the Navy enforce their new policy?
I had enough. On March 30, I wore my uniform to a public Christian event outside the White House that included prayers and Bible readings. Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore delivered a hard-hitting homily to highlight the program. My ONLY “speech” in uniform that day was reading Christian prayers and scriptures. Yet the Navy wrongly contends my prayers were “not public worship.” They insist worship must be restricted to the Sunday chapel. Prayer, however, is still worship in my book, whether in chapel on Sunday or outside the White House on Thursday. I was charged at court-martial with violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, even though I got written permission to wear my uniform at any worship service or any religious observance. The court-martial judge ignored Navy Uniform Regulations which state: “Chaplains have the option of wearing their uniform when conducting worship services and during the performance of rites and rituals distinct to their faith groups.” During the court-martial I conducted my defense “by the Book” – the Bible – and rested my case without calling any witnesses, following Isaiah 53:7, which states Jesus “was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth.” It was obvious to me: worshipping in public is the same as public worship. But not to the judge. On Sept. 13, I was gaveled guilty of disobeying a “lawful” order.
My story ran in 600 newspapers that week. One poll asked: Should military chaplains be allowed to lead prayers in Jesus’ name during public events that are not religious services?” And 85 percent of respondents agreed with me, and said “yes.” So many good citizens were angry at the Navy, they called Sen. John Warner (R-VA) who surrendered to public opinion in a speech on the Senate floor, just one week after my court-martial:
“I am being besieged by telephone, by bloggers, by everything else... I think that we should put in report language in our bill two things: First, that the Secretary of Defense will stay—that means hold in abeyance—enforcement of these newly promulgated regulations until such time as the Congress has had an opportunity to hold its hearings...I am basically assured by the Department of Defense that they will Comply.” – Sen. Warner, 19 Sep 06
Despite a solemn promise by the Secretary of Defense to “not enforce” that Navy prayer policy, they’re still enforcing it against me today! Navy lawyers are still defending that illegal policy in court, as the legal basis to kick me out. God spoke to me three times during my court-martial, that if I’d lay down my life, he would resurrect me. Responding to your petitions, the House & Senate attached a conference report to the 2007 Defense Authorization Act stating:
“The conferees direct that the Secretary of the Air Force rescind the policy and revised interim guidelines concerning the exercise of religion...The conferees further direct the Secretary of the Navy rescind Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1730.7C dated February 21, 2006, titled “Religious Ministry within the Department of the Navy.” – Congress Conference Report
This is a move in the right direction, as long as it lasts. The battle isn’t over, however, and it won’t be until the unholy, precedent-setting verdict against me is overturned. You see, despite Congressional action, chaplains still aren’t free to pray publicly in Jesus’ name! The Navy’s previous policy that “suggests” we not pray in Jesus’ name still allows commanding officers to determine what their chaplains may and may not do.
As it now stands, any chaplain who dares to do what’s right runs the risk of being disciplined by a commanding officer. And the skipper is always right, backed up by the “brass.” So you see why my appeal must be overturned, either in Navy or federal courts, in order to set this matter straight. Congressional action, you see, doesn’t allow my case to be “grandfathered,” so my career apparently is over. The freedom purchased for others has cost me everything.
People ask, “Chaplain, would you do it over again?” Without hesitation I answer, “Yes.” It was worth it to sacrifice my career for Jesus, for our Sailors, and for religious liberty, because now other chaplains will have the liberty I was denied. So I am being drummed out of the Navy, just like 68 other chaplains still suing the Navy for religious harassment, all of them evangelicals, most of them no longer in uniform, passed over for promotion because they preached Jesus Christ, and prayed in Jesus’ name, without compromise.
In my case, the jury recommended only a letter of reprimand and suspended monthly fine of $250. The misdemeanor Navy court, first offense, had NO legal authority to kick me out of the Navy. But top officials immediately moved to separate me from the Navy – using strange administrative proceedings never before attempted on any chaplain – and to take away my pension. This is the latest of many reprisals against me for speaking to the Congress and the press. A March 22 email from Vice Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the Chief of Naval Personnel, to Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the Chief of Naval Operations, proves they planned to kick me out before I wore my uniform to pray at the White House.
Eight days before the March 30th event for which I was later court-martialed, Vice Adm. Harvey recommended my “involuntarily release” from the Navy “due to lack of career potential.” He noted in his email: “This officer is the individual who conducted a hunger strike in front of the White House several months ago and has engaged in other actions concerning (Defense Department) and Navy Religious Ministry policies.”
PERSECUTION AWAITS US ALL – YES, EVEN YOU!
It’s no secret that liberals don’t want to see or hear anything Christian. The mere mention of Jesus’ name raises questions deep inside, that atheists don’t want to answer.
Jesus promised in Matthew 10:22, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Take it from me: Persecution awaits – in the form of ostracism, discipline and punishment – anyone who mentions anything specifically Christian.
We must take our final stand. Don’t let our Christian chaplains be compromised and silenced or, worse, ousted from service.
Take action with me now, to guard our nation’s freedom of religion, guaranteed by the Constitution.
Yes, I staged an 18-day hunger strike last Christmas, skipping Christmas dinner, drinking only water, to pray and fast for our President, losing 14 pounds. The devil hated that, but God loves the power of prayer and fasting. Yes, I’ve gone on record as saying my superiors are breaking their oath to support and defend the Constitution, by actively pressuring chaplains to water down their prayers into generic, non-sectarian forms, against centuries of Navy tradition. But punishing a whistle-blower for his complaints is against the law. These Admirals think because I stand up for what’s right and am true to my God, I’m not worthy of promotion. I’m not worthy to wear the uniform. Thus I must go. But I will not go quietly. I’ll continue to fight for Jesus. And I need your help.
We must stop this godless plot to silence truth and banish Jesus from the public square. We cannot let them melt down the Christian faith into a meaningless one-size-fits-all sham, nothing more than sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. There is no more fundamental American principle than the inalienable right to freely worship our Creator, and I hope all Christians will pray publicly in Jesus’ name – without fear! For any government official to mandate “non-sectarian” prayers is for him to force his government religion upon me – to censor, exclude and punish me for my obedience to Christ.
Stand with the Lord Jesus and sign our new petition that calls upon the Secretary of Defense to keep his promise, and “not enforce” that illegal (rescinded) prayer policy against chaplains like me who pray “in Jesus’ name.”
I am not alone in resisting this outrageous persecution – God, of course, is with me. I have a fine legal defense team. And the Declaration Foundation, a God-honoring organization, championed by Alan Keyes, boldly stands for Christ Jesus with me. But I’m still paying the legal bills from my court-martial, not to mention the expensive upcoming appeals, and just forget about my pension, housing, utilities, medical and food. The Navy won’t pay my salary anymore. My family and I are in God’s hands.
I pray you will stand with us, by helping the In Jesus’ Name Project, an effort by the Declaration Foundation to aid my cause. Please give $35, $50, $100, or $500 to help us in this fight.
Somebody might even give a fifth-wheel motor home, so I can travel and preach, or at least have a temporary roof overhead – starting next month!
Perhaps I’ll soon be accepting speaking invitations. Tell your pastor if you’d like me to come, then send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org But at least, TAKE ACTION and sign the petition, along with making your generous contribution to help reverse this wrong and keep such persecution from other military chaplains.
In Jesus’ Name Project will deliver your signed petition to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and bring this outrage to national attention, with education and publicity drives. If those in power can silence me today, they will silence YOU tomorrow! It’s true: All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men and women to do nothing.
Think of it: while our troops fight and die for freedom abroad, Navy chaplains face court-martial for praying for those same troops in the name of our Lord!
Regardless of what happens to me, the constitutional right to quote Scripture and pray in Jesus’ name must be upheld throughout the military. That’s why I beg you to support the In Jesus’ Name Project by the Declaration Foundation. In this glorious Christmas season, full of our grateful joy for the birth of Our Lord, lift up our Christian chaplains in your prayers, that they may hold true to their faith in the God of the Bible, and His Son Jesus Christ, who alone holds the key to heaven.
Be sure to sign the accompanying petition! Ask the Secretary of Defense to revoke this outrage and safeguard the Constitution’s guarantee to our free exercise of religious faith.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all In the name of the
Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17
I hope you will send back your signed petition with your best gift to help the Declaration Foundation stand up for the right of Christians, in uniform and out, to pray in Jesus’ name.
Please don’t delay. Act right now. I took a stand. Now it’s up to you. Stand up for Jesus today! God bless you.
Merry Christmas, In Jesus’ name.
Gordon James Klingenschmitt
P.S. As a special Christmas faith commitment, please take action now, for Christian chaplains, for our troops, indeed for America. Let’s give Jesus the honor of public worship he richly deserves. Then please prayerfully and financially support the right to pray publicly in Jesus’ name – today!
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