Chris Rodda, research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an occasional contributor here at Dispatches, writes that a lawsuit filed by Mikey Weinstein against Jim Ammerman and Gordon Klingenschmitt in Texas will go to trial. The suit was filed by Mikey and his wife personally, not by MRFF.
The issue is imprecatory prayer. As I’ve written here before, Klingenschmitt and other wingnuts have routinely encouraged their followers to pray imprecatory prayers, which is essentially a Christian curse. They pray that God will strike someone down. Here’s an example from Klingenschmitt’s website:
IMPRECATORY PRAYERS AGAINST ANTI-JESUS BARRY LYNN AND MIKEY WEINSTEIN
“Let us pray. Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who issued press releases this week attacking me personally. God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround us and tell lies about us. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with Godly people. Plunder their fields, and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants, and remember their sins, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Ammerman, who founded the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, the group that credentialed Klingenschmitt to be a chaplain before he was discharged, is just as crazy as Gordo. Maybe worse.
It didn’t take long to find out that Jim Ammerman was a dangerous conspiracy theorist with a long record of making statements to foment anti-government sentiment and incite violence as a speaker for the Topeka, Kansas based Prophecy Club, an organization that promotes a plethora of conspiracy theories against the U.S. government — everything from 9-11 being a government conspiracy to the United States being in imminent danger of being placed under the control of U.N. forces to the entire U.S. government being an illegal government founded by the Illuminati and satanists. In fact, way back in 1997 a three-star general had called for an investigation of Ammerman and CFGC with a memorandum including nine pages of excerpts from Ammerman’s radio appearances and his Prophecy Club video, “Imminent Military Takeover of the U.S.A.,” a video being circulated among militia groups at the time.
Ammerman’s statements included everything from saying that Bill Clinton (president at the time the video was released) should have been executed to inciting the militia types by making claims that his chaplains were reporting back to him that they had inside information that the U.S. military was preparing to attack U.S. cities, and claiming inside information from other sources indicating an imminent threat of the United States being placed under martial law.
Ammerman’s more recent statements include a “suggestion” in his September 2008 CFGC newsletter that the four democratic senators who were then candidates for president — Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and, of course, Barack Obama — should be arrested and executed for voting against making English the official language of the United States. He has also advocated armed violence against law enforcement officials…
Ammerman has also allegedly slandered Mikey Weinstein and his family. In one speech, describing a meeting he had had with a U.S. senator during which the senator asked him how the chaplains praying in Jesus’ name controversy got started, Ammerman claimed that Weinstein became a “madman” because one of his sons, both of whom are Air Force Academy graduates, “got saved” at the Academy. (Ammerman’s claim about Weinstein’s son is completely untrue, as is his claim that Weinstein is a multi-millionaire who’s getting other Jews to give him money).
“He [the senator] said, ‘this big question about the name of Jesus, where did it start?’ And I said, ‘In the Air Force — the Air Force Academy, in fact, by a Jew who had two boys there. He was a graduate from there and became a lawyer — a real estate lawyer — and he’s a multi-millionaire and he’s getting other Jews to give him money to stamp out the name of Jesus throughout this nation. But, one of his two Jewish sons got saved up there and he’s been a madman ever since. He should come — and I pray God will enlighten him and say your son’s not on the road to hell any longer, and if I get a chance to meet him, I will say, ‘Do you know how happy you ought to be. One of your sons is on the road to heaven.’ Now, he might slug me because he’d turned into a madman at that point, but I’ll take a lick for Jesus. In fact, if he broke my neck and I died, I’d be in the instant presence of Christ, and I’m sure Jesus would have a little smile on his lips when I reported in.”
Anyway, Mikey’s lawsuit against them for inciting violence against him and his family will apparently go forward. And I’m on the record as saying that I hope he loses the suit. I am as committed to free speech as I have ever been and I do think there is a key distinction between saying “I hope God strikes you down” and “I’m going to kill you.” I’ve said this to Mikey directly.
But that doesn’t mean this kind of behavior shouldn’t be condemned. And it doesn’t mean that Mikey doesn’t have every legitimate reason to be concerned about that behavior. He routinely receives real death threats and his home has been attacked many times, with windows busted out and swastikas painted on the outside and much more. I certainly don’t blame him for wanting to put a stop to it, even if I ultimately think the First Amendment has to take precedence.
The fact is that there are a lot more of these whackos out there than any of us would like to think. I didn’t recognize this until just the last few years. But Mikey is not the only friend I’ve seen go through this now. Another friend of mine gets regular death threats from the Army of God for his gay rights advocacy and those aren’t just hypothetical threats; skinheads have been arrested on his property preparing to attack him.
There is a very dark underbelly of the extreme right in this country that is prone to violence and very active. We’ve seen it in attacks on the Tides Foundation, abortion clinics and activists like many of my friends. There’s a similar underbelly on the left in the really extreme animal rights and environmental groups, who have bombed scientific labs and sabotaged logging operations and such. And while the government should and must punish those who commit violence, it should avoid punishing speech or advocacy as much as possible. But the larger society should also condemn and marginalize those extremists in every way we can.