Magazine article The Christian Century

Praying for God to Hurt Someone Is Not Illegal, Judge Rules

Magazine article The Christian Century

Praying for God to Hurt Someone Is Not Illegal, Judge Rules

Article excerpt

Is it OK 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 that it is legal, at least as long as no one is actually threatened or harmed.

District Court Judge Martin Hoffman dismissed a lawsuit brought by Mikey Weinstein against a former U.S. Navy chaplain who he said used "curse" prayers like those in Psalm 109 to incite others to harm Weinstein, a 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. The lawsuit said 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 April 2 Dallas Morning News.

Psalm 109, which is 31 verses long, 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 April 6 that "a very aggressive appeal is highly likely. …

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