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-Judge: Imprecatory Prayer Not Illegal

by Dr. D ~ April 9th, 2012

Be not silent, O God of my praise!

For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues.  They encircle me with words of hate,and attack me without cause.  In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.   So they reward me evil for good,and hatred for my love.

Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand.  When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin!

May his days be few; may another take his office!

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow!

May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!

May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!

Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children!

May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation!

May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! Let them be before the LORD continually,that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth! 

-Psalm 109:1-15 (ESV)


From (RNS):

Is 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 Monday (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.

<Read the whole RNS article>

Response: This case brings mixed emotions for me.

First of all. I believe the judge’s ruling is correct in this case. The chaplain was not calling for others to attack Weinstein and undoubtedly would not support those who did threaten his family. Also, Weinstein is entirely wrong in saying that imprecatory prayers, based upon Psalm 109, are the same thing as a Muslim Fatwa. The prayer is calling for God to do something not calling on fellow believers to harm Weinstein or his family.

Secondly. The content of prayers should be Constitutionally protected. Weinstein says that he will appeal the decision. Since any ruling against imprecatory prayers would put our religious freedoms in jeopardy we will be watching for any further developments in this case..

Thirdly. From a Christian theological perspective I do not like imprecatory prayers. Based upon the teaching of Jesus, I believe that Christians should try to love their enemies and do good to them. That would include praying for them and not against. I do believe it is acceptable to pray against the causes of our enemies but that is entirely different.

Finally. The folks who threatened Weinstein and his family and damaged their property are not following the teachings of Jesus and should be condemned by all Christian leaders.           *Top

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