Our friends at Right Wing Watch have the latest update today in the continuing story of Colorado's nuttiest Republican Representative-elect, Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt of Colorado House District 15. As followers of a story that has made the trip from fringe sideshow to poster child for the incoming Republican Class of 2014 know, Klingenschmitt is a former Navy chaplain who was discharged after (among many other things) wearing his service uniform to a political media event in contravention of specific orders. Klingenschmitt's discharge from the Navy became part of his campaign message, claiming it was the result of his "praying in Jesus' name" at a demonstration across from the White House in 2005.
Except it wasn't.
Gordon Klingenschmitt, the right-wing televangelist who recently won a seat in the Colorado General Assembly, built a career out of making wildly inaccurate claims about anti-Christian persecution in the U.S. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Klingenschmitt’s entire career as a conservative activist is also based on a persecution story that is completely made-up.
Klingenschmitt, who goes by “Dr. Chaps,” has based his political activism on his own personal story of persecution, claiming that the military censored and fired him because he said the name of Jesus in his prayers as a chaplain. He filed a lawsuit to protect his First Amendment rights and has used his story to win persecution points from the Religious Right and raise lots of money for his group, the Pray In Jesus Name Project.
But as Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports, Klingenschmitt lost his lawsuit last week…because the incident never happened.
As we’ve known for several years, Klingenschmitt was not dismissed for using the name of Jesus in a prayer, but for wearing military garb at a political event, in violation of military regulations, among other reasons that had nothing to do with the fact he delivered Christian prayers.
The ruling is worth a read all by itself, including an unflattering description of a Klingenschmitt fire-and-brimstone memorial service while serving aboard the USS Anzio, horrible reviews from fellow sailors–"worst CHAP I have seen in 17 years" reads one–and the details of Klingenschmitt's defiance of orders prohibiting him from speaking to the media in his military uniform. The court concludes:
[T]he 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…
In short, the record fails to support a showing of any causal connection between any protected activity and Dr. Klingenschmitt’s separation. For that reason, and because his other challenges to the lawfulness of the recertification process are without merit, the Court concludes that the Navy’s decision not to recertify Dr. Klingenschmitt, which resulted in his administrative separation from the Navy, was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law.
Klingenschmitt's troubles, based on our experience in the past years or so, would seem to have more to do with his own extreme combative ramblings than anything else. This is a man who claims that both Barack Obama and defeated Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis are "demons," and that only people who are "going to heaven" deserve equal rights from government. Klingenschmitt claims that "Obamacare causes cancer," and before apologizing suggested that Rep. Jared Polis wanted to "join ISIS in beheading Christians."
We always assumed stuff like that was coming out of "Dr. Chaps'" mouth in his Navy days, too.
The upside? Klingenschmitt's story should pair well with another Republican from Colorado Springs, Rep. Janak Joshi, who lost his license to practice medicine before being elected to the legislature in 2010.
Take pride, El Paso County! "Dr. Chaps" looks forward to representing you next.