Fredericksburg City Council

Two Years Later, Klingenschmitt Might See Victory in VA

Back in 2008, we wrote a few posts based on claims by Gordon Klingenschmitt and other right-wing activists that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine had supposedly "fired" several State Police Chaplains because they prayed publicly "in Jesus' name" and had banned chaplains for praying in such a manner.

It wasn't true, but that didn't stop Klingenschmitt, Rick Scarborough, Mat Staver and others from holding a rally in Richmond in an effort to get the decision reversed.  That never happened and the issue faded away ... at least until recently, as now it looks like the issue will be brought up again now that a Pat Roberston-approved governor is taking control in Virginia:

[Del. Charles W. Carrico, a retired state trooper] already has refiled the measure for the 2010 session, which begins Jan. 13. He said he is hoping for a better result now that senators have had more time to think about the issue.

He also could get a boost from the change in the governor's office. Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, who had threatened to veto Carrico's bill, will be succeeded by Bob McDonnell, a conservative Republican with close ties to the Rev. Pat Robertson.

"The governor-elect is a strong supporter of religious liberty and the right of religious officials to freely practice their faiths, unimpeded by government," McDonnell spokesman J. Tucker Martin said. "He is reviewing the directive from that perspective."

He said McDonnell would withhold further comment until after he takes office.

Flaherty issued the order after a federal appeals court upheld a Fredericksburg City Council policy that banned opening council meetings with sectarian prayers. The order applies only to department-sponsored public events, not to private events such as funerals or counseling sessions with troopers or victims.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the directive applied to only one event in 2009 — the department's annual law enforcement memorial service. She said the department stands by Flaherty's 2008 statement that the state police must "be inclusive and respectful of the varied ethnicities, cultures, and beliefs of our employees, their families, and citizens at-large."

Gordon Klingenschmitt: The Right's Tom Joad

Gordon Klingenschmitt is a D-list right-wing activist who made a name for himself by getting bounced from his position as a Chaplain in the Navy and parlaying that into a career as a right-wing martyr. Since then, he's hooked with various right-wing groups to warn that pastors will face prison is any sort of hate-crimes legislation is enacted and joined Rick Scarborough for several of this one-day crusades to save America.

But through it all, Klingenschmitt's primary mission has been to serve as the Tom Joad to the oppressed chaplains on this nation, constantly on the look-out for any situation he can exploit to serve his own ends ... and here he rides to their rescue once again: 

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is defending why his administration forced the sudden resignation of five Virginia State Police Chaplains because they prayed publicly "in Jesus' name."

...

Former Navy Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, who was also fired in 2007 for praying "in Jesus name" in uniform (but won the victory in the U.S. Congress for other military chaplains), weighed in:

"Governor Kaine campaigned like a Christian to get our votes. But now, instead of governing like a Christian, or respecting his own chaplains' First Amendment rights, his administration forced the resignation of five police chaplains, simply because they prayed publicly 'in Jesus' name.' These five chaplains lost their jobs for honoring Christ. They're heroes of the faith, because they refused to deny Jesus when ordered to by the Kaine administration. If they contact me, they will be honored through my web-site: www.PrayInJesusName.org. And now Governor Kaine pretends he's the martyr, because we question why his administration forced them to resign for praying to Jesus? He's still got a job, they don't. Governor Kaine isn't the martyr, he's the persecutor."

Of course, if you bother to actually read any of the coverage of this, you quickly find out that Kaine in no way forced anyone to resign and that the policy was actually implemented by the Superintendent of State Police:

In a statement, Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the State Police superintendent, said he asked chaplains to offer nondenominational prayers at department-sanctioned public events but that the request does not apply to private ceremonies or individual counseling.

Flaherty said his decision was in response to a recent federal appeals court ruling that a Fredericksburg City Council member may not pray "in Jesus's name" during council meetings because the opening invocation is government speech.

"While the executive staff and Col. Flaherty are highly respected and provide great leadership, this is just a policy several of us could not agree with when it comes to the issue of individual prayer," said Trooper Rex Carter, who resigned as a chaplain in August ... Since August, six of 17 chaplains have resigned.

Gordon Klingenschmitt: Constitutional Scholar

Want to know what Klingenschmitt thinks of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit's ruling on the Fredericksburg City Council case? Well,, he's helpfully released a version of the decision interspersed with his own erudite legal reasoning: "KLINGENSCHMITT COMMENT: THE WORD ‘JESUS’ IS NOW ILLEGAL RELIGIOUS SPEECH, BANNED BY O’CONNOR’S TWISTED READING OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT. ‘GOD’ IS PERMITTED, BUT ‘JESUS’ IS BANNED. THAT’S NOT FREEDOM. YOU MUST ‘LEAVE JESUS OUTSIDE’ IF YOU WANT TO SPEAK IN A GOVERNMENT FORUM. O’CONNOR IS WRONG, AND SO IS THE CITY OF FREDERICKSBURG."