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January 4, 2006
Column #1,271
Chaplain Fights Politically Correct Pentagon
by Michael J. McManus

"Why would the U.S. Navy fire a chaplain, evict him and his family from military housing leaving him with no retirement," asked my son, Adam, in a column. Adam offered four multiple choices:

A. He had an extra-marital affair with a female officer

B. He posed nude in Playgirl Magazine

C. He disobeyed direct orders to go to Iraq because of his pacifist convictions

D. He prayed in the name of Jesus, quoted John 3:3 and John 3:36 during an optional memorial service in The Naval Base chapel, declined to support mandatory attendance quotas at a pro-homosexual church, and requested Kosher meals to feed a hungry Orthodox Jewish sailor.

"Sadly, the correct answer is letter D. Welcome to the politically correct insanity of today's military...Unbelievably, Admirals from the Pentagon have stripped 37-year-old Naval Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt of his uniform and forbidden him to pray in the name of Jesus in public unless he is wearing civilian clothes," Adam wrote.

This is a direct violation of the law dating back to 1860 (Title 10 U.S. Code Section 6031) which states: "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."

On December 20th,  Klingenschmitt held a press conference in front of the White House, asking President Bush to issue an Executive Order allowing military chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions, as the law permits.

He also started fasting until the President responds. As I write, he has not eaten for 15 days. What would drive a man to such an extreme position? 

His faith. 

Klingenschmitt graduated from the Air Force Academy and rose to the rank of Captain.  He attended seminary to become a chaplain, but the only openings were in the Navy. He switched services, accepting a lower rank, a pay cut and was assigned to the USS Anzio.

His faith conflicted with the Navy on four issues.

First, he led a memorial service for a deceased sailor who died in a motorcycle accident, shortly after he came to faith as a result of  hearing Klingenschmitt preach.  He cited the same Scriptural references in the funeral service that he preached including John 3:3: "Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Also 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."

Captain James Carr, his Commanding Officer of the Anzio, attended.  Carr told him the sermon should honor the faith of those attending the service, not the faith of the deceased.

"Preaching a negative or exclusive message will eventually get you fired," Carr informed Klingenshmitt. "Do you really have to preach all that `born again' stuff in your sermons?"

The chaplain was forced to attend mandatory counseling with Capt. Chaplain Steve Gragg who said, "You're not supposed to preach John 3:36 when unbelievers are present because you might offend them. We must preach as institutional-pluralistic ministers; we're not really here to represent our denominations."

Klingenschmitt disagreed, citing the law above, saying, "I don't wear the "P" of Pluralism on my collar, I wear the cross of Jesus Christ."

His second offense was that he ended his prayers "in the name of Jesus." At Chaplain School he was taught to only mention God. He compromised by saying, "We pray to you, Almighty God and I pray in Jesus name. Amen."

Klingenschmitt was even reprimanded for helping an Orthodox Jewish sailor have Kosher meals aboard the Anzio. Captain Carr objected and asked the sailor to meet with a Rabbi chaplain to see if Kosher meals were necessary. The Rabbi agreed with the sailor, citing Navy regulations accommodating religious dietary requirements.

The sailor got only one Kosher meal a day and lost 17 pounds.

Finally, Klingenschmitt objected to forcing scores of on-duty sailors to attend a televised service in a church that ordains gay clergy. As a Evangelical Episcopalian, he suggested that sailors be given the option of attending an optional evangelical service.  That was denied.  When few sailors signed up for the televised United Church of Christ service, senior chaplains ordered him to send a quota of sailors to pretend they were worshiping.

Klingenschmitt objected to "government-mandated church quotas to enforce their own religion on non-volunteering sailors."

His fast and White House press conference moved the Navy to reinstate him as a chaplain. But Bush has not issued an Executive Order allowing chaplains the freedom to practice the faith of their heritage.

So his fast continues.

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