By Jack Minor
A Texas atheist may end up unwittingly fulfilling the same prayer he sued a former Navy Chaplain over after a judge dismissed his lawsuit alleging he was damaged by the prayer.
“This has been hanging over my head like a Damocles Sword for the last two and a half years, and now the string has been cut loose,” former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt said.
Last week, when the case finally came to court, Texas Judge Martin Hoffman issued a summary judgment dismissing it as frivolous.
Klingenschmitt had been sued in 2009 by Michael Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, after he posted a prayer on his website asking God to defend him against verbal assaults by Weinstein. In the prayer, he quoted portions of Psalm 109, written by King David, who was asking God to protect him from evil men who wanted to destroy him.
Weinstein is an outspoken critic of Christianity. On the MRFF website he blamed part of the turbulence in Afghanistan on Christians, saying, “The last several days of furious protests in the streets of Afghanistan have been the inevitable outcome of a culture of utter impunity within the U.S. military. This culture of religious bigotry is fueled by militant, unchecked Christian fundamentalism. Its attendant Islamophobic racism is carefully coddled and nurtured. The result is total disdain and denigration of the values of the Afghan nation.”
In 2009, following several verbal assaults by Weinstein, including one to the chief of naval operations, Klingenschmitt posted the following prayer on his website:
Let us pray. Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who issued press releases this week attacking me personally. God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround us and tell lies about us. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with Godly people. Plunder their fields, and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants, and remember their sins, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
An imprecatory prayer is a prayer asking God to protect the weak and faithful from the strong and wicked.
The prayer prompted Weinstein and his wife, Bonnie, to file a lawsuit against not just Klingenschmit but the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and its founder, Elmer Ammerman. Weinstein claimed the prayer amounted to a “fatwa” against him despite it never mentioning the word death or violence.
“In other words, Klingenschmitt called upon his followers to commit violence against, or even kill, Michael Weinstein, and even his family,” he alleged in his petition.
As evidence of his allegations, Weinstein’s attorney, Randal Mathis, said people had fired shots at the Weinstein’s home, set fire to his lawn and left animal carcasses on the porch.
However, the incidents actually happened between one to three years before Klingenschmitt posted his prayer. Stephen Casey, Klingenschmitt’s attorney noted that “it would require a violation of time-space” for the vandalism to have occurred because of the prayer.
In dismissing the suit, Hoffman noted that Weinstein was unable to provide any evidence the prayers were part of any conspiracy against him or had caused them any harm worthy of damages.
Klingenschmitt said that Weinstein knew the case had no merit, insisting it was an attempt to silence the Christian message in the military.
“Mikey wants to get 500 chaplains kicked out of the military in the way to do that is to sue the organization that sponsors them, in this case the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel churches,” he said.
He noted that often organizations will adopt self-censorship policies to prevent lawsuits such as Weinstein’s.
“This is not the first time Weinstein has lost in court, and it will not be the last. His views of religious belief do not comport with the freedoms our founders enshrined in the Constitution nor the laws that arise from those fundamental rights,” Stephen Casey, Kliingenschmitt’s attorney said. “If the First Amendment doesn’t protect public prayer, what kind of speech is next to fall victim to those who have little respect for free expression?”
In an ironic twist, Klingenschmitt’s prayers apparently are being answered because of Weinstein’s lawsuit against him.
As a result of the judge’s decision, Klingenschmitt is now entitled to attorney’s fees, which are estimated to be in the six-figure amount, and possible damages as well.
“I will now sue Mikey Weinstein for defamation, unless he immediately repents with a public, written apology, admitting he lied, both in court and on national radio,” said Klingenschmitt.
He noted a Google search of the words “Klingenschmitt” and “animal carcasses” returns over 2,000 search results.
Klingenschmitt said the atheist has unwittingly proved that God answers the prayers of his children.
“We never expected to get sued, I was just praying the Psalms and now God is answering the same prayer he sued me over,” he said. “This is like one of those Bible stories like Esther where God turns everything upside down.”