Franklin Graham Supporters Attack Military Religious Freedom Activist As Anti-Christian

In the latest round of fire in the controversy over Franklin Graham’s rescinded invitation to pray at the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer event, Gordon James Klingenschmitt, the former Navy chaplain court-martialed for wearing his uniform to a partisan political event, and who later founded the Pray in Jesus’ Name project, is charging that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which protested the Graham appearance, is anti-Christian.

Klingenschmitt, who still self-identifies as “Chaplain,” and whose hysterically anti-gay website shows him in military uniform, is out with a press release accusing Mikey Weinstein, MRFF’s president, of “profanity-laced, and bigoted anti-Christian comments.”  Klingenschmitt claims Weinstein “was reportedly paid with our tax-dollars to defame Christianity to our troops, and should be disinvited far more quickly than Franklin Graham.”

Weinstein told me this morning that he received a $1,000 honorarium for speaking at an Air Force event in February, will receive a $300 honorarium for an event this May, and received no fee for speaking at another event. The fees, he said, were the standard fee all speakers receive.

Last year, Weinstein sued Klingenschmitt and Jim Ammerman, the founder of the Dallas-based Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, seeking to end their imprecatory prayers against him and his family. Klingenschmitt and Ammerman insisted Weinstein’s claims were unfounded, with Klingenschmitt telling the Dallas Morning News, “I never prayed for anyone’s death . . . I never prayed for anyone’s violence. All I did was quote the Scriptures.”

In April 2009, Klingenschmitt issued “Imprecatory Prayers Against Anti-Jesus Barry Lynn [the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State] and Mikey Weinstein,” praying: “Let their days be few, and replace them with Godly people. Plunder their fields, and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants, and remember their sins, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Weinstein told me he received 31 death threats yesterday, and requires an armed security detail when he speaks at Air Force events.

Reacting to the charge that the MRFF is anti-Christian, Weinstein pointed out that over 96% of the organization’s 17,000 clients (active and retired members of the military and National Guard) are Christian, and that Christian organizations support its efforts. “It doesn’t sound like we don’t have Jesus on our side,” Weinstein joked.

Weinstein is well-known for his foul-mouthed, combative (and illuminating, crucial, and effective) critiques of the evangelizing culture in the U.S. military, particularly in the Air Force. If Klingenschmitt recalls civics, he might remember this pesky thing called the Free Speech Clause in the First Amendment that enables him to spout his opinions and commentary about Weinstein, and enables Graham and Klingenschmitt himself to degrade Islam.

The Pentagon, on the other hand, is bound by another provision of the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause, to refrain from endorsing or appearing to endorse one religion over another — not to mention the public diplomacy efforts of the United States that might wither from anti-Islam bashing, even supposedly uttered in the loving name of Jesus Christ — that might be perceived from Graham’s previous statements. When Klingenschmitt compares Graham’s appearance at the prayer event to Weinstein’s February appearance at an Air Force seminar, his accusation that Weinstein is anti-Christian is a red herring to divert attention away from the Establishment Clause issue — because Klingenschmitt doesn’t believe in the Establishment Clause.

Klingenschmitt, who Americans United for the Separation of Church and State called a “phony martyr” because he falsely claimed he was expelled from the military because he prayed in Jesus’s name, when in fact the court-martial was over his uniformed appearance at a partisan event, was accused by his Navy supervisor of being “totally untruthful, unethical and insubordinate,” and “contemptuous of all authority.”

Klingenschmitt now hopes Weinstein can find Jesus at the May 1 May Day event taking place at the Lincoln Memorial, which purports to seek repentance for the nation’s wicked ways. May Day, “a cry to God from a nation in distress,” is organized by D. James Kennedy protege and talk radio host Janet Porter Folger, who apparently is unaware of the day’s, er, socialist history. It is co-hosted by a wide range of religious right figures including Klingenschmitt, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Concerned Women for America’s Wendy Wright, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, Redeem the Vote’s Randy Brinson, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman, as well as Republican Congressmen Steve King (IA), Trent Franks (AZ), Cliff Stearns (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Randy Forbes (VA), anti-Obama propagandist Jerome Corsi, Glenn Beck’s favorite historian David Barton, and Proposition 8 proponent Jim Garlow, who now heads Newt Gingrich’s organization Renewing American Leadership.

May Day is billed as a distress signal from “Christian leaders of all denominations who love God to humble ourselves, pray, seek the face of God, and turn from our wicked ways—individually and as a nation.” Organizers area already warning that “this event is not to impress the media or those in Washington, but to reach the heart of God,” to preempt any coverage that might question low turnout. Repentance anyone?

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email