September 2003 Church & State | People & Events

Incensed over the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on church and state and other social issues, TV preacher Pat Robertson in early July launched a "prayer offensive" to seek changes on the high court.

Robertson appealed to viewers of his nationally televised "700 Club" program to participate in a 21-day prayer campaign called "Operation Supreme Court Freedom."

In a letter to supporters posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network's website (, the Virginia Beach, Va.-based preacher blasted the Lawrence v. Texas decision, arguing that the high court had created a "constitutional right to consensual sodomy and, by the language in its decision, has opened the door to homosexual marriage, bigamy, legalized prostitution, and even incest."

Noting that one justice is 83 and that two others have had health problems, Robertson said, "Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire? With their retirement and appointment of conservative judges, a massive change in federal jurisprudence can take place."

The Christian Coalition founder did not name names in the letter, but the reference to the 83-year-old justice could only be John Paul Stevens, who was born in 1920. The justices with health problems were apparently Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both of whom have survived bouts with cancer.

Robertson's appeal asked his supporters if they would "join with me and many others in crying out to our Lord to change the Court?"

Robertson later denied he was singling out any specific justices, but The Washington Post reported July 17 that in one interview he cited Stevens, Ginsburg and O'Connor as the three he wants to see gone.

During a July 17 press conference, Robertson again declined to name names.

"I don't care which three I mean as long as the three conservatives stay on," he said. "There's six liberals, so it's up to the Lord. I'm not telling God what to do. I'm just saying, 'Lord, help us.'"

He added, "There are a couple of healthy ones I would like to see resign too, but that's in God's hands."

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, expressed anger at Robertson's plea.

"There is something ghoulish about praying for the removal of some the Supreme Court's justices while noting their age and health problems," Lynn said. "This shows how desperate Robertson and his Religious Right allies are to remake the high court.

"Robertson and his friends want a Supreme Court that enforces the Religious Right's version of biblical law," continued Lynn. "They despise court rulings that uphold individual liberty and freedom of conscience."

According to Robertson's letter, the Supreme Court has done great damage to America with decisions that "ruled prayer out of the public schools" and found a right of privacy that opened "the door to the slaughter of more than 43,000,000 innocent unborn children."

The 21-day prayer offensive ended July 21 without apparent success. No changes on the Supreme Court have occurred.

In other news about Robertson:

Robertson's defense of Liberian dictator Charles Taylor has sparked widespread criticism. Facing an armed insurgency, Taylor has repeatedly promised to step down as the country's president and finally left the country on Aug. 11. As rebel forces advanced on the capital of Monrovia, Liberians pleaded for Western intervention to halt further bloodshed.

Despite Taylor's dismal record on human rights, Robertson continued to stick by the dictator. In June and July, he repeatedly blasted the State Department for failing to back Taylor.

On July 1, Robertson returned to the issue, telling his audience that a year ago he wrote to the undersecretary of state for African affairs warning him that "if we continued to undermine the regime of the sitting president of Liberia that there was going to be chaos, and I said to him then, 'you have no endgame.' Well, they haven't had an endgame, all they've wanted to do is destroy the government of Liberia, which they have succeeded in doing."

Robertson, who founded the Christian Coalition, also asserted that the U.S. has turned a blind eye to efforts by Islamic extremists funded by Saudi Arabia to overthrow "Christian" governments in Africa. During a July 7 rant, Robertson asserted that the United States has no business forcing the "duly elected" Taylor, whom he described as "a Christian, Baptist president," from power. (In fact, Taylor seized power by force in 1989 and was elected president in 1997 in an election observers charged was fraudulent.)

During his repeated TV tirades, Robertson never mentioned his primary reason for wanting Taylor to remain in power: The Taylor regime and Robertson are partners in a gold-mining venture. In 1999, a Robertson-owned company, Freedom Gold, entered into an arrangement with Taylor's regime to look for gold in southern Liberia. If gold is found, Taylor's government will receive royalties from Robertson. That arrangement would end with Taylor gone.

A UN indictment accuses Taylor of backing a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. News media sources say the conflict has left more than 200,000 civilians dead and countless others injured or mutilated. Taylor has also been accused of forcing children to fight in the Liberian army and of enriching himself at the expense of his impoverished nation. His record on human rights is so bad that he is barred from visiting the United States, a ban Robertson has tried unsuccessfully to persuade the State Department to lift.

Robertson's support of Taylor drew fire even from fellow conservatives. "How can anyone with a healthy conscience to say nothing of a Christian conscience pretend that violations of basic human rights don't really matter?" queried Joe Loconte, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation, in an opinion column.

Another conservative, David Brooks, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, went even further, calling Robertson a "money-changing loon" in a July 20 interview on the "Chris Matthews Show." Brooks later added in a separate interview, "He's too loud, too out there, too flying off the handle. Most Christian conservatives have moved beyond him."

Going Hollywood: In July Robertdson named Hollywood television producer Peter Engel as the new dean of Regent University's School of Communication and the Arts. Engel has produced such TV fare as "Saved by the Bell," "Hang Time" and "California Dreams."