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Praying for God to Hurt Someone
Is Not Illegal, Judge Rules
BY DAVID GIBSON ©2012 Religion News Service
s it okay to ask God to do harm to another person? The theology of such "imprecatory prayer" may be a matter of debate, but a Dallas judge has ruled it is legal, at least as long as no one is actually threatened or harmed.
District Court Judge Martin Hoffman on April 2 dismissed a lawsuit brought by Mikey Weinstein against a former Navy chaplain who he said used "curse" prayers like those in Psalm 109 to incite others to harm the Jewish agnostic and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and his family.
Hoffman said there was no evidence that the prayers by Gordon Klingenschmitt, who had been endorsed for the Navy chaplaincy by the Dallas-based Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, were connected to threats made against Weinstein and his family or damage done to his property.
According to the lawsuit, Klingenschmitt posted a prayer on his website urging followers to pray for the downfall of MRFF. "I praise God for religious freedom because the judge declared it's OK to pray imprecatory prayers and quote Psalm 109," Klingenschmitt said after the ruling, according to The Dallas Morning News. Psalm 109 calls for the death of an opponent and curses on his widow and children, among other things.
Hoffman's ruling did not actually turn on constitutional questions as much as it did on Weinstein's claims that the prayers incited the threats and vandalism.
Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer who started the foundation to battle what he sees as undue religious influence in the armed forces, said on April 6 that "a very aggressive appeal is highly likely." He said he has received numerous death threats, had swastikas painted on his house, and that his windows have been shot out and animal carcasses left on his doorstep as a result of his activism.
"We are disappointed in the ruling because we believe the judge made a mistake in not understanding that imprecatory prayers are code words for trolling for assassins for the Weinstein family," Weinstein said. "I don't think the judge understood that these are not regular prayers," he added, comparing imprecatory prayer to a radical Islamic fatwa.