Chaplains challenge commanders in lawsuits

Military chaplains have challenged their commanders on several occasions in the last decade with allegations that free exercise of religion, or even certain denominations, were being squelched in the name of religious pluralism and fairness.

In 2006, Navy Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt stood in uniform outside the White House to protest a policy requiring chaplains to use only nonsectarian prayers when leading convocations for required military gatherings—a ban, as Klingenschmitt put it, on “praying in Jesus’ name.”

Klingenschmitt was disciplined for the protest and later dismissed from the Navy, although the service later rescinded the policy requiring nonsectarian prayer. He now travels around the country talking about his experiences and working as an advocate for a number of causes related to religious freedom.

“I won the war although I lost my personal battle,” Klingenschmitt told Human Events.

Today, he is suing to have his military career restored.

Elsewhere, 65 Navy chaplains, active, reserve, and retired, are suing the Navy with claims that they have been passed over for promotion or advancement because their evangelical beliefs did not match those of members of the promotion board.

The attorney for these chaplains, Art Schulcz, said analysis of promotion rates showed that chaplains from liturgical denominations were consistently preferred over nonliturgical; and chaplains from liberal traditions were promoted over their more conservative peers. One of Schulcz’s clients, Philip Veitch, claimed that command retaliation for preaching “non-pluralism” in his sermons ultimately led to the end of his military career.

Schulcz told Human Events the lawsuits are ongoing.