Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Chaplain 'starves himself' over Navy no-Jesus zone

Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt says he will not eat until the president takes action to allow him and other chaplains the freedom to pray and preach without diluting God to a one-size-fits all deity.

[…] Klingenschmitt, an Air Force Academy graduate who transferred to the Navy three years ago to be a chaplain, says since his case made national news the Navy has renewed his contract, but still says he cannot pray in Jesus' name in public while in uniform. While the chaplain says he welcomes the contract extension, he will continue his fast until he is allowed to wear his official uniform – which, he points out, bears a cross – while praying a Christian prayer in public.

[…] Since 1998, the Navy has had a pluralism policy governing the behavior of chaplains, a policy Klingenschmitt ran into headlong when he first attended chaplain school in 2002.

"They taught mandatory lectures there to all chaplains, that you cannot pray to your God, you have to pray to the civic god," Klingenschmitt explained. "The Muslim chaplain can't pray to Allah, a Jewish chaplain can't pray to Adonai, a Roman Catholic can't pray in the name of the Trinity, and I couldn't pray in Jesus' name in public.

"They only let us do that in private. If it's in public, they tell us to just pray to God and say, 'Amen.'"

Klingenschmitt, an Episcopal priest, says he challenged the policy at the time, saying that Title X of the U.S. Code allows him to pray "according to the manners and form" of his own church. "And that's been the law since 1860," he said.

The chaplain says he believes the 1998 Navy policy illegally overrides U.S. Code.

Read the whole thing here.

I am not familiar enough with the particulars of the case to make any profound comments, but that's never stopped me before:
  1. “You have to pray to the civic god.” My, that certainly reminds me of being required to offer sacrifice to Caesar. Even if the words “civic god” aren’t actually used anywhere, prayers to a generic god are really prayers to no god at all. One might as well be offering a goat to a statue.

  2. This guy is an Episcopal priest! That is really surprising, considering that prayer in the name of Jesus is hard enough to find in many Episcopal churches these days, let alone in the armed forces. Even if he wins this battle, he may have to fight it again when he leaves the Navy and gets a parish of his own.

  3. I think the pluralism policy misses the point anyway. I always thought freedom of religion had to do with the right to express religion in the public square. “Equal repression for all” is not liberty!

  4. Besides, I have a lot more in common with orthodox members of other Christian denominations than I do with the “progressive” members of my own. Frankly, I get along better with committed Jews and Moslems (dynamiters excepted) than with liberal Christians. We may disagree on some very foundational matters, but at least we can have coherent conversations. With liberals, I always feel like one of us is speaking Klingon.