Followers of a recent case on imprecatory prayer were left puzzled, disturbed, fascinated and asking “why?” On Monday, April 2, a district court judge in Dallas ruled it legal for people to pray curses on others as long as there is no threat or harm caused to the cursed person, according to The Huffington Post.
Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, sued former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt who had invoked curses upon him. Weinstein claimed the imprecatory prayers caused various threats and damages to his family and property.
“Why would someone go to court over something like that?” freshman communication studies major Megan Ramirez said. “How does a judge have any ruling over what you can pray about, first of all, and how can a judge, like a judge of the world, a human, say whether it’s okay or not okay in God’s eyes? How does a judge determine that?”
The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants freedom of religion and speech. This case brings up an interesting combination of expressive religion, but the focus seemed to be more on the prayer than any constitutional issue.
“I thought that it was kind of a quirky case and that it is not your typical religious freedom scenario that you hear about in the court system,” Jennifer Walsh, professor of political science, said. “This case was interesting because it was on the content of religious expression; the legal challenge asked the court to determine what you are and are not allowed to say in prayer. It also struck me as being a little trivial in that the courts have never been in the business of regulating the content of your faith. There have [only] been time, place and manner restrictions on free exercise of religion.”
The content of the case dealt with prayer, a practice that various religions in this country implement into their walks of faith. But the focus was more on the Christian religion in this case, for Psalm 109 was mentioned as one of those imprecatory prayers, according to The Huffington Post.
Psalm 109 is a passage in which David prays to God to move against his enemies, and hence the question arises, “Should Christians be praying curses upon their enemies?”
“I guess I understand the reason for bringing curses on somebody based on the imprecatory psalms,” professor of biblical studies B.J. Oropeza said. “However, at least in the Christian worldview, we are not supposed to end in the Old Testament, but begin there, and really the final way that we live our lives in terms of ethics and spirituality would be the New Testament.”
Oropeza said he would simply like to redirect an individual who is praying imprecatory prayers, asking that individual, “What does Jesus say about this?”
“[Look] at, for instance, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who despise you and who persecute you, and so on,” Oropeza said. “The people who call curses down upon us we are to bless in return, and those who do us harm we are supposed to bless.”
Though the judge of this court case ruled it legal to practice imprecatory prayers, I ask why a person would want to invoke evil against another who has committed an injustice.
“I think Jesus made it very clear when he said to forgive seven times 70, and to the people back then, that was a lot,” freshman psychology major Wesley Jenkins said. “Because they were trying to follow the Mosaic law of ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,’ Jesus comes and challenges that and says forgive. And so, I guess for me, I would pray for a forgiving spirit…. I think there is always an opportunity to reach that person, and I think if you fight hate with hate, it only grows. The only way to combat hate effectively is through love.”
The former chaplain Klingenschmitt made his sentiments known through publishing his imprecatory prayer online. As seen in the outcome of this case, to curse someone is a form of speech protected by the first amendment, but although it is permissible, I wonder if he should have gone about the matter in such a public way.
“The way to get to him would have been either maybe confront him about it one-on-one instead of publishing it online,” freshman graphic design major Lindsey Lyons said. “If he has the faith that I believe a religious leader should, then he should have been able to pray to God about at least giving him options or ideas or opportunities to be able to minister or have that guy be ministered to in general.”
Though this court case could bring another negative spotlight upon Christianity, I believe followers of Christ should not fear ideas or words. Instead one should take this opportunity to share what one truly believes and to demonstrate the love of Christ through words and actions.
I think Romans 12:17-18 sums up the matter well: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
Kiara Soto is a junior English major who loves spending time with her familia. She also loves to write fictional stories and play with lights.