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PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

ACLU suit against military prayer never happened

The statement

"The ACLU has filed a suit to end prayer from the military completely."

Chain email, found by PolitiFact Georgia reader

The ruling

So has everyone heard about the big legal case going on in Washington?

Not the recent three-day hearing before U.S. Supreme Court about the federal government's health care law and its controversial individual mandate.

We mean the case about the American Civil Liberties Union suing the U.S. military, according to a widely circulated chain email.

"ACLU has filed a suit to end prayer from the military completely," the email said. "They're making great progress. The Navy Chaplains can no longer mention Jesus' name in prayer thanks to the ACLU and others. I'm not breaking this one. If I get it a 1000 times, I'll forward it a 1000 times! Let us pray. … Prayer chain for our Military … Don't break it!"

This claim has been circulating for a few years. It may have gotten started in 2006, when a Navy court reprimanded and docked the pay of an evangelical Protestant chaplain. Lt. Gordon J. Klingenschmitt was found guilty of disobeying an order by appearing in uniform at a political protest in front of the White House. He had been critical of the Navy's policies that he said prevented him from saying "Jesus" in a prayer.

In 2009, rumors of an ACLU lawsuit to end prayer completely in the military began spreading through the Internet. That year, PolitiFact swatted down a claim that the ACLU filed a lawsuit to have all military cross-shaped headstones removed with a Pants on Fire ruling.

A year or so later, websites began debunking the claim about prayer in the military.

We checked with the U.S. military to see if anything has changed since the rumors began.

"That's utter lunacy," said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman. "I'm not aware of any notification from the ACLU toward that end."

An ACLU spokeswoman told us the same thing.

"This email has been widely circulated, but there is no such ACLU lawsuit of this kind pending, nor do we intend to file one," spokeswoman Molly Kaplan told us via email. "Military chaplains are certainly allowed to practice their specific faith when conducting specifically sectarian ceremonies and to serve in non-denominational roles when ministering to service members at-large, according to their training."

This one is a Pants on Fire.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

ACLU suit against military prayer never happened 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 8:20pm]
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