A Texas judge has ruled that "imprecatory" prayers, or prayers for another person's harm, are legal so long as they don't result in direct threats or personal damage. Mikey Weinstein, a Jewish agnostic and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, sued Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain, whose website allegedly called on supporters to claim Psalm 109 in prayers for Weinstein's demise.
A prayer posted on Klingenschmitt's website (prayinjesusname.org) and on YouTube that cites Weinstein and anti-Christian activist Barry Lynn reads in part, "We bless them but they curse us. ... Let their days be few." District Court Judge Martin Hoffman dismissed Weinstein's lawsuit, but Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer who served in the Reagan White House, said that "a very aggressive appeal" of the decision was "highly likely." In 2005 Weinstein sued the Air Force Academy for allowing Christian "proselytization," and in 2007 charged the Pentagon for allowing lunchtime Bible studies to take place on its premises (see "One-man offensive," Aug. 25, 2007)-with little result.
Louisiana College, a Southern Baptist affiliate, prevailed in a lawsuit filed by four former professors who claimed that the school violated their academic freedom, and that the school and its supporters inflicted emotional distress on them. Backers of the college allege that the professors' courses included material and views contrary to the school's Christian mission, from using M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled to raising questions about the Bible's historicity.
The state court ruled that it could not legitimately decide whether the professors' teaching actually violated Southern Baptist theology, and that the theological nature of the case put it beyond the court's jurisdiction. The college called the ruling a landmark decision for "Louisiana Baptists who have proudly supported their only biblically based higher education institution."
New York churches have been fighting to use school facilities for Sunday morning worship, but such use also cuts the other way: Schools across the country routinely hold commencement exercises in church buildings. Now an Atlanta-area high school student has declared she will not attend her graduation because it will take place at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a megachurch led by controversial pastor Eddie Long. Sixteen-year-old Nahkoura Mahnassi says she is not a Christian, and that Southwest DeKalb High School should not hold commencement at the church because it violates the separation of church and state. Secularist advocacy groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State have repeatedly sued to stop church use of schools and school use of churches. The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard a case in February 2012 regarding the constitutionality of a Brookfield, Wis., high school holding graduation at a church. A decision is pending. -Thomas Kidd