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By Eric Stirgus April 19, 2012

Chain email claims ACLU sued military to block prayer

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.

Loyal PolitiFact Georgia reader Robin Fitch asked us to check out a claim she received in her email. inbox

"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!"

Fitch, who lives in Atlanta, got it from a friend in Columbus. She didn’t believe it. Turns out her instinct was correct.

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. The one was rated Pants on Fire. The article mentioned the prayer claim.

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

But for the record, we checked with the U.S. military to see if anything has changed since these 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. "The ACLU vigorously defends the rights of all Americans to practice their faith, and the rights of chaplains to serve our armed forces. 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."

Let’s hope this false claim doesn’t continue to make the rounds on the Internet or via email. This one is a Pants on Fire.

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Chain email claims ACLU sued military to block prayer

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