Rutherford Institute Defends Right of Chaplains to Offer Imprecatory Prayers, Opposes Efforts to Restrict Religious Speech
October 15, 2009
Nisha Mohammed — Rutherford Institute
DALLAS, Texas–The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of the head of a chaplaincy endorsing organization who is being sued over allegations that a chaplain affiliated with his group solicited imprecatory prayers which the plaintiffs consider to be “terroristic threats.”
The lawsuit, which defines imprecatory prayer as “prayers for the Lord to protect the weak and faithful from the strong and wicked,” seeks to limit the content of prayers offered by chaplains who are approved by the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC). For more than 25 years, CFGC has carried out a service to the nation by endorsing military and civilian chaplains.
“If people are forced to stop offering imprecatory prayers, half the churches, synagogues and mosques in this country will have to be shut down,” stated John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “When Martin Luther King spoke, violence erupted in many places. He wasn’t inciting violence. Free speech is the last bastion we have in this country. You can’t shut down speech based on speculation.”
In 1984, the Department of Defense approved the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC) as an endorsing agency for military chaplains. CFGC is also recognized by the Veterans Administration, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and many other federal, state, municipal, and private institutions.
CFGC presently endorses more than 270 military chaplains/chaplain candidates and more than 180 civilian chaplains/seminarians.
The lawsuit against CFGC and its founder, Jim Ammerman, was filed by Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The lawsuit seeks to penalize CFGC for imprecatory prayers offered by one of its chaplains, Gordon Klingenschmitt. According to the lawsuit, Klingenschmitt posted a prayer on his website urging followers to pray for divine protection for CFGC and for the downfall of MRFF, which has been actively seeking to have CFGC removed as an approved chaplain endorsing agency. Weinstein has accused CFGC of conspiring to threaten him through the prayers of its supporters.
In coming to the defense of the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, Rutherford Institute attorneys dismiss the conspiracy charge, noting that neither Ammerman nor CFGC have any control over the content of prayers offered by its chaplains. Furthermore, Institute attorneys point out that the content of one’s prayers is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.