Former chaplain, anti-gay activist elected in Colorado
By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 6, 2014
WASHINGTON — A former Navy chaplain who was discharged for protesting in uniform at the White House and who claims transgender Americans are driven by a “demon of rape” has a new soapbox: the Colorado statehouse.
Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt beat out his Democrat challenger Tuesday with a landslide 70 percent of the vote in the state’s District 15, according to results published by the secretary of state.
District 15 encompasses Peterson Air Force Base, and is near Colorado Springs, Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Klingenschmitt, 46, who runs the website Pray in Jesus Name, styled himself as a defender of religious freedom in his election campaign. He was kicked out of the service for the uniform violation in 2007 following an a 18-day hunger strike and a rally protesting chaplaincy preaching guidelines in front of the president’s residence.
More recently, he has drawn national attention as an anti-LGBT activist who has claimed gay people “want your soul” and railed against the push to allow a 6-year-old transgender Colorado student access to a co-ed school restroom.
“As a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, I defended religious freedom for everybody,” including the rights of Jewish, Muslim and atheist sailors, Klingenschmitt said in a campaign video before the election.
The former chaplain’s platform advocated gun rights and opposed domestic spying, abortion and national school standards. His main opponent, Democrat Lois Fornander, was trounced after running for renewable energy, LGBT civil rights, economic equality, and stricter regulation of banks and corporations.
The Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper described the two candidates as opposite extremes of the political spectrum.
Klingenschmitt, a chaplain for 16 years, takes donations and publishes slickly produced video messages about religious and political issues on his website. In recent posts, he told followers that a “Satanic evil spirit” is using President Barack Obama and is responsible for domestic spying programs.
The LGBT community and rights activists are a common subject of his warnings. He criticized the U.S. Air Force chief of chaplains in June for advocating tolerance at an LGBT Pride Month event and said “we should be ashamed America is embracing sin.”
Klingenschmitt said the parents of Coy Mathis, the 6-year-old transgender student, were abusing the child, born a boy, by allowing her to dress as a girl, and a proposal to allow co-ed bathrooms at schools in Colorado would lead to sexual assault.
“There is a demon of rape inside this movement to violate your daughters,” he said.
Klingenschmitt gained notoriety in 2005 as a chaplain when he went on a Christmastime hunger strike at the White House, saying the Navy pressured him to drop mentions of “Jesus” while speaking at public events and violated his rights. Service guidelines said chaplains should avoid Christian references at nonreligious events out of respect for servicemembers with other religious beliefs.
Klingenschmitt said the service had singled him out “because I pray in Jesus’ name.” The National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, the country’s largest chaplaincy advocate, called the controversy inflated and misleading.
Meanwhile, the Navy had said Klingenschmitt was in good standing at the time, had no pending disciplinary action and had not been punished for religious references in public. But that changed a few months later, when he appeared at another religious rights rally in front of the White House in his Navy uniform — a violation of service rules unless authorized in advance.
He was convicted of the violation in court-martial and discharged in 2007.