Former Navy Chaplain Worries Ending DADT will End “Gay Exorcisms”

Years ago, author and Soulforce founder Mel White, in an interview, told me that he doesn’t judge those who say they are “ex-gay.”

“Who am I to say whether they are or not?” he said. “Only they know their own hearts.”

While that’s true, it doesn’t help those struggling with their homosexuality due to religious and societal condemnation to come into contact with people like former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt. Americans United notes that “Klingenschmitt claims he was drummed out of the Navy because he wanted to pray in the name of Jesus. In fact, he got tossed out for being insubordinate” as he violated military regulations forbidding servicemembers from wearing their uniforms to partisan events.

His discharge from the military has made him a hero to the religious right, a role he has embraced. His latest claim is that he conducted a “gay exorcism” on a lesbian servicemember, an incident he described on the David Pakman show:

Klingenschmitt: As a chaplain I prayed with a young lesbian sailor who came to me and said, “Chaplain, I don’t like the way I’m feeling. Can you help me with this?” We prayed with her and she renounced her sin, she invited Jesus Christ to be the first man in her life that she trusted. We had a wedding ceremony. She wept as Jesus moved into her heart and got the devil out of her…

Pakman: So you’re saying that you believe a gay exorcism is a legitimate and worthwhile thing to do in these cases?

Klingenschmitt: Well, it’s the only spiritual solution to a spiritual disease. I looked into her eyes and said “You foul demon of lesbian homosexuality, come out of this woman in Jesus’ name” she began to weep and she loved Jesus. She began reading her Bible, became the best evangelist in our church. She got baptized and started dating boys.

It’s a story Klingenschmitt has told before to Peter Labarbera, only with other details including that the sailor said she had been raped and that the “wedding ceremony” they performed was to marry the woman to Jesus.

Klingenschmitt is worried that with the repeal of DADT that chaplains won’t be able to perform these kind of “exorcisms” on gay and lesbian soldiers anymore. If I’ve heard anything that truly commends the lifting of the ban, then this would be it.

Klingenschmitt, or any other chaplain who would do this, is engaging in both religious and psychological fraud. To take a woman who had obviously suffered a deep trauma like rape and attempt to “exorcise” the “demon” of homosexuality out of her does nothing to actually address the problem and trauma that the woman has faced. Instead, it puts the blame squarely back on that victim—that something inherent in her had somehow caused the assault.

Like White, I confess that I cannot know the heart of this woman. Perhaps in accepting Christ she was healed of the trauma of rape, and has been able to suppress her homosexuality. That doesn’t excuse, however, the malpractice that Klingenschmitt visited upon this woman. He gives no follow up on the woman and I suspect we won’t hear much about her if she “slips” in her “recovery.”

I suggest an exorcism for Klingenschmitt.

“You foul demon of bigotry, come out of this man, in Jesus’ name!”