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News Link • Religion: Believers

Imprecatory Prayer, redux.

• The Cybernetic Athiest
[Whew!  I finally got all my neighbors' leaves out of my yard, now all I have to do is wait for my trees to drop their my yard, naturally.]

Remember my post, "Imprecatory Prayer. Again. Such Good Christians!" which I posted back on October 17th?  The one where Mikey Weinstein got a letter from an anonymous classmate trying to scare him from attending their class reunion from the Air Force Academy by quoting an imprecatory prayer for him to come to harm?

Well, Mikey has taken another group to court for posting an imprecatory prayer on a website, and the judge has ruled that imprecatory prayer is legal.

District Court Judge Martin Hoffman on Monday 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.
Weeelll, I can somewhat understand that reasoning, but listen to this:
"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. 
 Emphasis mine.

He praises his god for religious freedom, while he and others are working as hard as they can to end that religious freedom, which comes not from his god, but from the Constitution they hate so much they want to end its most important protections.  I'm getting a headache just trying to follow the logic in that sentence.

While the prayer may not have been connected by evidence to the damage and threats, it is by nature, an imprecation for damage and threats to occur, and its intent is to do harm.  The utterer of that prayer believes, by his own admission, that his god will hear his prayer and cause the intended damage and, possibly, death, by divine action.  Thus, the intent of the prayer is to cause harm.  One can also argue, cynically, that the utterer of that prayer knows full well that his god will not answer that prayer - but he also knows that for him to utter a wish for a man causing his religious movement such mischief to himself come to harm is an open incitement for others of that movement to take action and cause the harm to become reality.  So, the reality of that "prayer" is that, regardless of the source of the harm, the intent of the prayer is to cause that harm to occur.

Now, were that prayer to be uttered in private, I believe it is covered by the First Amendment.  You've got every right to ask your god to protect you by bringing your enemies down.  It doesn't say a lot for your character, but you do have that absolute right.

But to post that prayer on a web site for all the world to see, though mostly your followers, and especially if that prayer contains specific wishes for harm to come to a particular person and his family, then I believe it crosses a line from private prayer (and thus protected religious conduct) to public incitement of violence, which is not.

One can create a prayer that is generalized to ask your god to cause your enemies such grief as to end their attempts to frustrate your own goals.   That is an accepted and generally used type of prayer.  It doesn't wish specific harm to particular individuals, nor a particular kind of harm to even one group.  It kind of leaves the specifics to the god being appealed to, which is generally accepted as ok.

But to pray to your god to cause a very specific kind of harm (and appealing to the bible verse they did is very specific indeed) to a very specific person and his family is well beyond the pale of accepted behavior.

And for that person posting the prayer to publicly gloat over that legal victory tells us all just exactly what kind of person he is, and what kind of movement he belongs to.

Oh, and did I mention that the movement involved is a Dominionist group?

Yeah, that's what kind of people they are.

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