Beware Solicitation Letters

Bill Neinast

Mail solicitations are getting seamier.  Two that arrived in tandem last week sank to new lows.  The saccharin in one and the vitriol in the other may make the unwary reach for their checkbooks.

The sugary one designed to tug at heart strings had the return address of Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, Phd.  The letter was a plea for at least $25.00 to help “Pray in Jesus’ Name Ministries” fight for the right of service personnel to worship and share their faith.

This fight is necessary to prevent recurrences of what happened to the chaplain.  According to his letter, he was court-martialed, booted out of the Navy, and lost his home.  All this because he had prayed in the name of Jesus in front of the White House. 

A little research developed a much different picture.  He was court-martialed, but not for praying.  Contrary to Department of Defense regulations and specific orders, he appeared in uniform as part of a political protest in front of the White House.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  According to Navy Captain Norm Holcomb, “Despite what his defenders say, [Klngenschmitt] was not punished for praying in the name of Jesus. He was court-martialed for refusing to follow orders. It’s as simple as that. I was the dishonored ex-chaplain’s supervisor for the past 2 years.  I found him to be totally untruthful, unethical and insubordinate. He was and is contemptuous of all authority.”

Even more to the point, Holcomb writes, “We have been relatively quiet regarding our ex-chaplain’s untruthfulness and lack of honor because we are embarrassed that one of our own could display such behavior in the name of our Lord. We wanted to spare all concerned the embarrassment associated with his dishonesty. However, it now seems that it would be wrong for those of us who know the truth to remain silent. I served with him and supervised him (as best as it was possible to supervise a person who refused to submit to lawful authority) and I know about his daily dishonesty and ‘spin’ of the truth.”

The second letter is a vitriolic solicitation from “Americans For One Language.”  This organization requests completion of the Texas Ballot on H.R. 997 and a donation of at least $17.35.  Ostensibly the need for donations is to push legislation to make English the official language of the U.S. 

To scare some into parting with their money, the letter warns, “The America you know and love is on the verge of being destroyed by angry Mexicans who refuse to speak English” (emphasis added) and “angry Mexicans will continue forcing America down the path to becoming a bankrupt, corrupt, third-world nation like their native Mexico.”

The idiotic bigotry of that letter was in stark contrast with a concert on the evening of its delivery. The first piece performed by the band from the Czech Republic was the national anthem of their home country.  Everyone in the audience stood and some sang along in Czech.  The whole program was in Czech. That was right here in central Texas in Caldwell.

In a strange way, hearing Czech spoken again in Texas brought back memories of my best friend among my Army lawyer colleagues, the late COL Viviano Gomez, Jr.  Neither Viv’s parents nor those of his wife, Jo, spoke English.  He was the defense counsel in many courts-martial that I prosecuted, and I considered him the best trial attorney that I knew.  

Viv spoke excellent English with just a hint of a Spanish accent. Jo had a Masters Degree in English and taught English in high school. Both were reared in one of those households that the Americans For One Language want you to believe refuse to speak English. 

Then there are the stories from some old timers that, in the first three decades of the last century, German was heard more frequently than English on the streets of Brenham and surrounding communities.  This is reflected in the records of the old Lutheran Churches in the area, and in the minutes and records of the LaBahia Turnverein and in the oldest Agriculture Society in Texas in Cat Spring.

So here’s the perspective.

Conversing in some language other than English does not signify disloyalty in any way.  The German, Czech, Polish, and, yes, Spanish, heard around the country just indicates the person’s pride in his heritage.  By no stretch of the imagination does it indicate a desire to change the country.


Residents of many countries, particularly in Europe, are bilingual with some speaking three or more languages.  Conversely, Americans are considered to be linguistically illiterate.  As one school superintendent said a few years ago, only three languages were taught in his school--English, slang, and bull.

Learning a foreign language is not easy for most adults, and English is not the easiest for a foreigner to learn.  To be fluent, they have to learn the difference between effect and affect; two, to, and too; choir and chair; sheep and sheep but goat and goats; but and butt; and so on.

Before those insisting on English only are allowed on a soap box to preach their bigotry, they should be required to demonstrate their fluency in at least one language other than English. 

Finally, remember that solicitation letters are written to scare or cry you into donating to a pet cause. Be sure you know the facts.


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