This post has been updated for clarity.
A federal judge last week rejected a newly-elected Republican Colorado state representative’s claim that the U.S. navy violated his religious freedom.
Gordon Klingenschmitt, who once tried to perform an exorcism on President Obama, claimed that he was wrongfully dismissed as a Navy chaplain for attending a politicized religious event in uniform.
According to court documents, the Navy prohibits chaplains from wearing their uniform to political events. Klingenschmitt inquired whether he could wear his uniform to an event held by a “clergy lobbyist group.” The Navy advised him not to wear the uniform, as the event appeared to be political and not a religious service.
Klingenschmitt also participated an a 2006 rally protesting Navy policy, where he stood in uniform at a press conference. The Navy then decertified Kilngenschmitt as a chaplain after he lost his endorsement from the Evangelical Episcopal Church.
In his lawsuit, Klingenschmitt argued that Navy policies violated the First Amendment. But Judge Elaine D. Kaplan dismissed his claim, as the Navy’s issue with Klingenschmitt’s participation centered on his uniform.
“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,” Kaplan wrote. “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 [Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”
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