Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Klingenschmitt Requests Hush Money

Part of the martyrdom mythology that Gordon Klingenschmitt has sought to create about himself is the claim that he nobly sacrificed his military career and his well-earned pension as an officer because he was so resolutely standing up for God and country and the freedom to pray in Jesus’ name. The whole thing is a lie, of course; he was not court-martialed or discharged for praying in Jesus’ name at all but for disobeying a direct order to comply with military regulations forbidding him to appear in uniform at a political event. A jury of Navy officers convicted him of doing that and the military court ordered a letter of reprimand for it. It was at that point that Klingenschmitt began inventing this mythology about himself. But as Jason Leopold documents, he first tried to get the Navy to pay him off to keep his mouth shut:

Perhaps the tallest tale Klingenschmitt has told his rabid right-wing following is the one in which he claims to have sacrificed a seven-figure pension in the name of Jesus.

That assertion is contradicted by an e-mail he sent in October 2006 to the Vice Adm. John Harvey, Jr., Chief of Naval Personnel stating that he would offer his “voluntary resignation or retirement, and drop all complaints of reprisal/harassment, and waive all rights to future legal complaints against the Navy, if I were offered adequate compensation for my many years of service to our nation.”

His e-mail, obtained by The Public Record, made other veiled threats in an effort to get the Navy to pay him off in exchange for his silence.

For example, Klingenschmitt, who refused to comment for this story, threatened to turn over “documents,” supposedly backing his claims that he was being persecuted for praying in Jesus’ name, to Congress if his case was “unresolved.”

“Perhaps you’ve also noticed, both the Senate and House have scheduled hearings in January on this chaplain issue, and as their key whistleblower I’m sure they’ll be interested in my attached documents, should my complaint of new reprisals by [Chief of Naval Personnel] remain unresolved. Sir, I look forward to meeting you on Capitol Hill.”

In June of 2006, Klingenschmitt submitted a whistleblower complaint with members of Congress in which he accused naval officials of constitutional violations for prohibiting him from praying in the name of Jesus, which an 18-month investigation conducted by Navy officials concluded was “without merit.”

The “documents” Klingenschmitt cited in his e-mail to Vice Adm. Harvey were two newspaper articles, one from the Washington Post and the other from the Washington Times. It’s difficult to understand how Klingenschmitt would have believed these articles supported his cause.

The Washington Post report, published in September 2006, was headlined: “Navy Chaplain Guilty of Disobeying an Order.” The Washington Times article appears to be one written by an Associated Press reporter the newspaper carried on Sept. 12, 2006, headlined: “Navy chaplain faces court-martial for wearing uniform at protest.”

Other documents Klingenschmitt threatened to turn over to Congress included a petition, or something similar, that supposedly showed he was supported by “30 million evangelicals” and a “conference report ordering the [Secretary of the Navy] to rescind [non-sectarian prayer] policy.”

The Navy declined to settle with Klingenschmitt in exchange for his offer to drop his complaint.

Another myth debunked.