New lawsuit filed in ongoing religion dispute

WASHINGTON – A legal feud between former servicemembers on the issue of public expression of religion in the military is entering round two.

Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Navy chaplain who fought for the right to address public prayers to Jesus before being pushed out of the service in 2007, has filed a defamation lawsuit in New Mexico’s Albuquerque District Court against Mikey Weinstein, a prominent advocate of church-state separation in the military and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The suit alleges that Weinstein, a former Air Force attorney, wrongly blamed Klingenschmitt for inspiring vandalism and threats with an “imprecatory” prayer in 2009. The prayer, aimed at Weinstein and an ally, paraphrased the Bible in asking God to “let their days be few,” among other calls for divine punishment.

But the alleged vandalism occurred before the prayer was uttered, Klingenschmitt’s suit says. A judge earlier this year dismissed a lawsuit that Weinstein filed against Klingenschmitt in 2009, saying there was no evidence the prayer caused vandals to shoot out windows or draw crosses and swastikas on Weinstein’s house in Albuquerque.

Weinstein’s attorney, Randal Mathis of Dallas, promised a response to Klingenschmitt’s suit in coming weeks. The suit seeks unspecified damages for loss of reputation.

“A preliminary review … leads me to believe there is no basis for the suit, and we expect to vigorously defend it,” Mathis said.



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