Former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, insisting his religious rights were violated when he was dismissed from his position for praying "in Jesus' name."
The chaplain claims in the lawsuit that the federal government violated his rights when his ship commanding officer punished him in 2004 by downgrading his evaluation because he quoted "exclusive" Bible verses during an optional Saturday Christian memorial service. In addition, Klingenschmitt is seeking restitution because he was subsequently punished with another downgraded evaluation by his shore commanding officer in 2005 when he wrote to Congress and the president claiming that the Navy violated the Constitution when it forbid public prayers in Jesus' name.
The lawsuit also claims Klingenschmitt was unlawfully punished for wearing his uniform while worshipping in public and praying in Jesus' name outside the White House. The judge enforced the religious policy SECNAVINST 1730.7C, the chaplain claims, which required non-Jesus prayers in public, and although Klingenschmitt had written permission to wear his uniform during any religious service or activity, the judge ruled that he was not engaged in a public worship service, though he was worshipping in public. Congress later rescinded the law, but the chaplain was still dismissed.
"As a chaplain I took a stand for the right to pray in Jesus' name, and was I vindicated by Congress, who restored that right for other chaplains, but it was not grandfathered back to my case," said Klingenschmitt in a statement. "Now I'm filing this lawsuit to establish case-law precedent that will, hopefully, stop the domestic enemies of the Constitution from censoring chaplains prayers, or punishing their sermons or whistleblower speech, ever again in the future."
Klingenschmitt is seeking the reinstatement of his position in the Navy as military chaplain with four years of back pay and lost pension benefits.