US Supreme Court Passes on Chaplain Klingenschmitt

Former US Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt was discharged from the Navy in 2007 following a fairly public controversy over praying in Jesus’ Name and his subsequent court-martial. However, the court-martial wasn’t why Klingenschmitt was discharged.

During that same time period, Klingenschmitt changed endorsing agencies, a not uncommon administrative exercise:

On September 25, 2006, twelve days after his [court-martial] conviction, Dr. Klingenschmitt voluntarily tendered his resignation from the Evangelical Episcopal Church. On that same day, the Evangelical Episcopal Church notified the [Navy] that Dr. Klingenschmitt had lost his ecclesiastical endorsement, effective October 1, 2006.

On September 28, 2006, the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches executed an ecclesiastical endorsement for Dr. Klingenschmitt and transmitted a copy of that endorsement to the Chief of Navy Chaplains by facsimile on September 29, 2006.

Chaplains are required to have an endorsing agency.  Changing endorsers, which does sometimes happen, requires a re-certification by the military to continue as a chaplain. This re-certification is normally a formality.

However, the Navy declined to recertify Klingenschmitt under his new endorser.  Since the Navy now considered him to have no endorser, this generated an administrative requirement for his honorable discharge after 16 years of service.

Klingenschmitt subsequently sued, lost, and appealed.  Now nine years on from the original discharge, the Religion Clause reports the Supreme Court has finally declined to hear his appeal.

In the intervening years, Klingenschmitt has been elected to the Colorado statehouse and prevailed in a lawsuit filed against him by Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, as well as filed his own lawsuit against Mikey Weinstein for defamation stemming from Weinstein’s lawsuit.

It does not seem, though, that he’ll be returning to the US military as a chaplain.