A Navy chaplain on Tuesday pleaded not guilty before a court-martial to a charge of disobeying orders by wearing his uniform at a White House protest started Tuesday.

Lt. Gordon J. Klingenschmitt contends he is being punished for praying in Jesus' name at the March 30 event, a political protest of Navy policy requiring nondenominational prayers outside of religious services.

Jury selection was to begin later Tuesday.

Last December, the Evangelical Episcopal priest went on an 18-day hunger strike in front of the White House over the right to invoke Jesus' name outside such services.

A superior officer had ordered Klingenschmitt not to wear his uniform during media appearances without first receiving permission but said he could be in uniform if conducting a "bona fide worship service." Klingenschmitt contends the news conference at the protest qualified as such; the Navy disagrees.

If convicted, Klingenschmitt faces a maximum punishment of forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for one year and a reprimand.