Cursing Is Legal (At Least, for Now, in Texas…)
On April 6, 2012, Religion News Service carried a story originally reported in the Dallas Morning News. Judge Martin Hoffman, of the Dallas district court, dismissed a lawsuit brought by Mikey Weinstein against Gordon Klingenstein. Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer, is an avowed atheist and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which opposes what it claims to be unconstitutional religious activities in the armed forces. Klingenstein is a former Navy chaplain and an ordained minister of the Dallas-based Full Gospel Church, a very conservative Protestant congregation. What led to the lawsuit was the fact that Klingenstein had made public a so-called “imprecatory prayer” directed against Weinstein—that is, a prayer that asks God to harm somebody.
People of Klingenstein’s theological orientation like to claim Biblical warrants for any of their views. The New Testament is not without invocations of God’s wrath against those who reject the Gospel, but the Old Testament is a richer source. A favorite source is Psalm 109, in which God is asked to do any number of terrible things to an enemy of the psalmist: “May his days be few; may another seize his goods! May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit!”—and so on and on for many more verses. The Dallas story does not tell in detail just what misfortunes God was asked to inflict on Weinstein in the prayer at issue, but Klingenstein apparently quoted Psalm 109. The solemn pronouncement of curses against enemies could not have been an unusual occurrence in ancient Israel, for we are told in Deuteronomy 11 that two mountains (near today’s Nablus) were officially designated for two distinct religious ceremonies—Mount Gerizim for blessings, Mount Ebal for curses. It seems that some conservative Protestant preachers have uttered solemn curses against President Obama—also against the Internal Revenue Service (that one, I think, could acquire broad bipartisan support!).