In the latest example of stunning dishonesty from conservative Christians who want to view themselves as persecuted, a group of Navy Chaplains has apparently enlisted a
damn liar statistician to “prove” that they’re being discriminated against by not being promoted to higher officer ranks as frequently as chaplains from other Christian denominations. I have an alternative explanation: maybe they’re not being promoted because they aren’t doing their duties as well as other chaplains.
The Christian Post illustrated this article with a photo of former chaplain James Klingenschmitt praying while in uniform. Klingenschmitt loves playing the martyr and frequently claims that he was kicked out of the Navy “for praying in Jesus’ name.” Actually, he was kicked out of the Navy because he disobeyed a lawful order. He, like all military personnel, was forbidden from wearing his uniform at a political event in order to prevent the impression of military approval or endorsement of a political group or message. Klingenschmitt wore his uniform to a rally; he disobeyed an order, and he was court martialed for it. In fact, the photo on the CP’s site is almost certainly the very event that led to Klingenschmitt’s court martial.
None of this is mentioned in the CP article or the photo’s caption. Either they are very badly failing at their journalistic endeavors, or they’re deliberately using a disgraced ex-officer as their prime illustration of some Christians who claim to be discriminated against, and lying by omission.
The lawsuit concerns promotions to O-4 and above (Major or Lt. Commander and above), which are the first competitive promotion boards. If these chaplains really see themselves as following in Klingenschmitt’s insubordinate footsteps, it makes perfect sense that promotion boards might evaluate them as underperforming officers. Chaplains who make it their mission to undermine and even disobey military regulations, direct orders, and their own oaths as officers to the Constitution and its principle of religious liberty probably aren’t impressing their superiors with their outstanding performance.
This is just one more stunt by conservative Christians in the military that reveals their true colors. Chris Rodda of the wonderful Military Religious Freedom Foundation has a piece in the Huffington Post about the much larger and better-organized Officers’ Christian Fellowship. I speculated a while ago about how much consternation a similar Pagan organization would raise. I didn’t know at the time how evangelical the OCF was.
I would never want Pagans to adopt similarly fundamentalist attitudes or act to oppress others’ free exercise. But in the face of such oppression ourselves, we have to stay alert. We have to be active to debunk the lies, whether they’re told through statistics or false claims of discrimination or martyrdom. We have to be willing to work personally and politically to protect religious liberty for all Americans, Christian and non, military and civilian, alike.
(Although I tipped my hat to Mark Twain in the title, as a mathematician and sometimes statistician myself, I would like to point out that statistics is not all damn lies; it’s actually a wonderful field that does a lot to uncover truths and can be used to make the world a better place. Sadly, it can also be abused by unethical people like this. If there’s a deity of statistics, perhaps zie will lend a helping hand – or a randomized sample – to making sure that this kind of nonsense gets disregarded.)