Friday, October 9, 2009

Lawyer sues to end Dallas group's 'threat' prayers


A former military lawyer who served in the Reagan White House and worked for Ross Perot is suing a Dallas-based religious organization in a case that could test the limits of free speech and prayer.

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said he wants Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former U.S. Navy chaplain, to "stop asking Jesus to plunder my fields ... seize my assets, kill me and my family then wipe away our descendants for 10 generations."

The suit also asks the court to stop the defendants – Klingenschmitt and Jim Ammerman, the founder of the Dallas-based Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches – from "encouraging, soliciting, directing, abetting or attempting to induce others to engage in similar conduct."

Weinstein, 54, said his family has received death threats, had a swastika emblazoned on their home in New Mexico, animal carcasses left on their doorstep and feces thrown at the house.

Weinstein, who is Jewish, said the harassment started several years ago when he began protesting Christian proselytizing at his alma mater, the Air Force Academy. Weinstein started his foundation shortly after that to battle the influence of extremist evangelical Christians in the armed forces.

"I morphed from being a lawyer and a businessman to this thing called a civil rights activist," he says. He is an unlikely activist, Weinstein said: a Jewish Republican from a long line of military members.

Klingenschmitt, 41, said in a phone interview that he has "never incited anybody" to hurt Weinstein.

"I never prayed for anyone's death," he said. "I never prayed for anyone's violence. All I did was quote the Scriptures." His prayers are available on his Web site and for radio broadcast.

Ammerman, an 84-year-old retired Army chaplain, declined an interview, but said in a prepared statement he "believes the allegations are unfounded."

Weinstein said he also hopes to cripple the Chaplaincy financially and to have the organization stripped of its status with the Department of Defense.

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