By Gudrun Schultz

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 2, 2006 ( – The US Navy has been told by Congress to rescind a controversial directive banning chaplains from using overtly Christian language in prayers outside of traditional chapel settings, World Net Daily reported September 30.

In what has been called “a victory for religious liberty,” a congressional conference committee made the decision to retract the Feb. 21 directive entitled “Religious Ministry within the Department of the Navy,” along with a similar Air Force directive from Feb. 9.

Among those most relieved by the announcement of policy changes was Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a Navy chaplain court-martialed for using the name of Jesus while in uniform, at an event in front of the White House last March.

Klingenschmitt was charged by his superior, Capt. Lloyd Pyle, with violating Navy policy by “wrongfully wearing his uniform while attending and participating in a news conference in support of personal views on political and religious issues.”

The chaplain chose the court-martial over accepting a reprimand and a $3000 fine, recommended by a jury of U.S. Naval officers after the chaplain was convicted of disobeying an order not to appear in uniform for media appearance. (The jury had recommended the fine be suspended.)

Klingenschmitt said he had written permission from his commander to appear in uniform while participating in a similar prior event—both events were held in demonstration against the policy banning sectarian prayers.

The chaplain defended his participation in the event under the Navy Uniform Regulation, which “permits a member of the naval service to wear his or her uniform, without obtaining authorization in advance, incident to attending or participating in a bona fide religious service or observance.”

With the prayer ban lifted, Klingenschmitt told WND he is hopeful his letter of reprimand will not be officially signed. Regardless, he said, the committee’s decision was a tremendous victory for religious freedom.

“Chaplains are free again to pray in Jesus’ name,” Klingenschmitt said. “If this does cost me my career, I don’t mind, because other chaplains will now have the freedom that I was denied.”

The chaplain went on an 18-day fast in January to protest the prayer policy, which he told WND earlier in his trial was a deliberate censoring of chaplains’ prayers by the Navy.

“There is no more fundamental right than the inalienable right to worship our creator, and I pray in Jesus name. For any government official to require non-sectarian prayers is for him to enforce his government religion upon me, to censor, exclude and punish me for my participation.”

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