November 2011 Church & State | People & Events

TV preacher Pat Robertson marked the 50th anniversary of the Christian Broadcasting Network by making an unusual announcement: He vowed to stop endorsing candidates for public office.

“When I was in charge of the Christian Coalition, I was available to mobilize grassroots support for somebody,” Robertson told the Associated Press. “I don’t have any army right now. It’s just an opinion, and that isn’t quite as good as it used to be.”

Robertson added, “I’ve personally backed off from direct political involvement. I’ve been there, done that. That truth of the matter is, politics is not going to change our world. It’s really not going to make that much of a difference.”

Robertson founded the Christian Coalition in 1989 from the remnants of his failed 1988 presidential campaign. He stepped away from the Coalition in 2000, but remains involved in Republican Party politics. In 2007, he surprised many observers when he endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for president. In 2009, he endorsed Robert McDonnell, a graduate of Robertson’s Regent University, who went on to become Virginia’s governor.

Although Robertson, 81, said he no longer plans to issue endorsements, it’s not likely he’ll disengage from politics. He still appears regularly on his daily television show, “The 700 Club,” where political comment is a staple.

Over the years, Robertson has used his program, which has an audience of about one million, to issue opinions on numerous political issues. He has frequently sparked controversy for extreme statements.

He once opined that a natural disaster or a meteor would strike a Florida city that agreed to fly rainbow flags from light poles. He called for dropping a nuclear bomb on the U.S. State Department, advocated assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and said Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake because the nation is under a demon curse.

Most recently, Robertson came under fire after he suggested that a man whose wife was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease should leave her.

Robertson made the comment in September in response to a caller to his program who said that a friend had begun dating other women after his wife became ill with Alzheimer’s. Robertson said the man should get a divorce.

“What he says basically is correct,” Robertson asserted. “I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start over again – but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

Robertson went on to say that Alzheimer’s is “a kind of death” and added, “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you” for divorcing.

The comments were met with near-universal outrage. Many conservative Christians blasted the TV preacher.

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a column, “This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Robertson later insisted that he had been “misunderstood.”