Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Controversial Former Navy Chaplain Loses Another Round

Former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who has been in a long-running battle with the military over regulations requiring chaplains to deliver inclusive prayers at military events other than religious services, lost another round this week.  In Klingenschmitt v. United States, (Ct. Fed. Cl., Nov. 24, 2014), the Court of Federal Claims rejected Klingenschmitt's claims under the Tucker Act and the Military Pay Act.  After recounting for some 19 pages the history leading up to the lawsuit, the court explains:
In this case, Dr. Klingenschmitt alleges that he was wrongfully discharged from the Navy and seeks an award of backpay and allowances and benefits retroactive to his separation date and reinstatement as a chaplain. Incident to that claim, he seeks removal of references to his 2005 and 2006 fitness reports and the CARE board’s recommendation from his record.... He also asks that the Court vacate his court-martial conviction and direct that references to the conviction, including the letter of reprimand issued pursuant to his conviction, be removed from his record.... Dr. Klingenschmitt’s complaint also includes a potpourri of other claims that appear to challenge Navy policies which he claims violate the First Amendment, RFRA, and 10 U.S.C. § 6031(a).... 
In dismissing, the court said in part:
the Court finds unpersuasive Dr. Klingenschmitt’s argument that his First Amendment right to practice his religious beliefs was infringed by Captain Pyle’s Order that he not wear his uniform to the media event held in Lafayette Park in March 2006. Captain Pyle’s Order was based on Navy regulations that prohibit the wearing of a uniform in connection with political activities.... The Order did not limit Dr. Klingenschmitt’s right to engage in any religious practices (including presenting an opening prayer at the event or invoking the name of Jesus in his prayer). It simply prohibited Dr. Klingenschmitt from engaging in this activity while wearing his uniform at what was clearly a political event and not, as Dr. Klingenschmitt seems to suggest, a bona fide religious service.
Therefore, taking this infraction into consideration in deciding whether to recertify Dr. Klingenschmitt as a chaplain did not violate either his First Amendment rights or RFRA.