Former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt is quickly becoming the Religious Right's latest phony martyr.
Klingenschmitt claims he was drummed out of the Navy because he wanted to pray in the name of Jesus. In fact, he got tossed out for being insubordinate. Far from being a hero and a role model, Klingenschmitt is exactly what the military does not need: an officer who would not do what was expected of him.
Naval regulations forbid service members from wearing their uniforms to political or partisan events. This directive is clear and has been in place for a long time. Nevertheless, Klingenschmitt insisted on wearing his uniform to a Religious Right-hosted protest and press conference opposing the military's inclusive policies on religion. He showed up on the street outside the White House in the company of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Religious Right activist Rob Schenck and Texas preacher-politician Rick Scarborough. (Americans United staffers were there, so we know. See picture.)
Klingenschmitt could have
attended the event
in civilian clothes, but
he chose not to.
Despite this insubordination,
he is being feted by the
Religious Right. This year,
he plans to tour the nation with Pastor Rick Scarborough and Religious Right activist
Alan Keyes for a series
of right-wing political rallies
intended to turn out the vote for "Christian" political candidates.
On March 7, the Kentucky House of Representatives invited Klingenschmitt to open its session with a prayer and went so far as to pass a resolution lauding him for his "service to God, country and the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
All of this was too much for Klingenschmitt's former boss. Capt. Norm Holcomb, command chaplain at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, sent an e-mail to the Kentucky House, giving every representative the facts about the Klingenschmitt controversy.
Holcomb's message is very powerful, and reading it, one can sense the anger he feels that an officer who refused to follow orders is being treated like some kind of hero.
Holcomb also clarifies an important point: Klingenschmitt, despite what his defenders say, was not punished for praying in the name of Jesus. He was court-martialed for refusing to follow orders. It's a simple as that.
"I was the dishonored ex-chaplain's supervisor for the past 2 years," Holcomb wrote in his message. "I found him to be totally untruthful, unethical and insubordinate. He was and is contemptuous of all authority. He was not court martialed for praying in Jesus' name. I sent him out in uniform every week to pray at various ceremonies and functions. He always prayed in uniform and in Jesus' name. He was never told that he could not pray in Jesus' name. In fact, the issue of prayer had nothing at all to do with his dismissal from the Navy. He disobeyed the lawful order of a senior officer. I am sure that you understand that Navy Regulations forbid any of us, regardless of rank or position, to appear in uniform in support of any political or partisan event."
Holcomb goes on to say, "He appeared in direct support of a political event, demonstrating contempt for the order of his Commanding Officer and Naval Regulations that we all swear that we will abide by.... The ex-chaplain is a man without honor and you have accepted his story and in doing so you have had 'the wool pulled over your eyes.'
Holcomb, an ex-marine who served in Vietnam, notes that he is himself is a "born-again evangelical Christian" who has been a naval chaplain for 27 years.
He writes, "We have been relatively quiet regarding our ex-chaplain's untruthfulness and lack of honor because we are embarrassed that one of our own could display such behavior in the name of our Lord. We wanted to spare all concerned the embarrassment associated with his dishonesty. However, it now seems that it would be wrong for those of us who know the truth to remain silent. I served with him and supervised him (as best as it was possible to supervise a person who refused to submit to lawful authority) and I know about his daily dishonesty and 'spin' of the truth."
Such a thorough and impassioned debunking of Klingenschmitt's claims should put an end to the matter – but don't expect the Religious Right propaganda mill to care. We learned long ago that Religious Right zealots create their own reality and push their agenda heedless of the facts.
But, thanks to Capt. Holcomb, the truth about Klingenschmitt has been stated bluntly and with great force for anyone who cares to learn it.