Pat Robertson cover of Time

Pat Robertson Attacks High Court

Published July 17, 2003 by the Long Island, NY Newsday

by Sheryl McCarthy

Pat Robertson has finally gone over the edge.

This week on his national TV show the religious broadcaster urged his followers to join a 21-day "prayer offensive," asking God to remove three liberal-leaning justices from the Supreme Court.

Robertson was angered by the court's decision last month decriminalizing sodomy, claiming it opened the door to homosexual marriage, legalized prostitution, even incest. If his followers pray hard enough, God might make these sick and elderly justices see the wisdom of retiring, he said, although the underlying suggestion seemed to be that if they don't, they could be struck dead.

"We ask for miracles in regard to the Supreme Court," Robertson said pompously.

The justices, whom Robertson failed to call by name, must be quaking in their boots. After all, this is the guy who claims his prayers worked another miracle in 1985 by diverting a hurricane that was headed straight for the Christian Broadcasting Network headquarters in Chesapeake, Va. The hurricane landed in Long Island instead.

A few years later when Robertson predicted that hurricanes, meteors and other disasters would rain down on Orlando, Fla. - because Disney World was holding "gay days" - his powers failed him. Nothing happened. But he seems convinced that he has the power to call down the wrath of God on his enemies.

Back in the civil-rights movement days, many a black minister led his congregation in prayers asking God to change the hearts and minds of their oppressors, so that they would mend their ways. Those were acts of supplication, however. Robertson's prayer offensive - aptly named - sounds more like a self-righteous power play.

"Every time he opens his mouth he's an embarrassment to Christianity," said the Rev. Joseph C. Hough Jr., president of New York City's Union Theological Seminary.

"This notion that he can manipulate God by praying and getting God to accomplish whatever his political agenda is, is reprehensible. ... Not only is that arrogant. It's just simply inappropriate to use the spiritual life as a bludgeon on people with whom you disagree."

Hough said there are some Supreme Court justices he also thinks are just terrible, but that it would be more appropriate for Robertson to ask his followers to appeal to Congress or to the media if they want different justices on the court. Robertson shouldn't be intruding on people's most private spiritual moments to advance his beliefs.

Robertson made another crazy pronouncement this week, criticizing President George W. Bush for calling on Liberian president Charles Taylor to step down. Robertson's complaint: that it's wrong to undermine Taylor, a professed Christian and a Baptist minister, and allow Muslim rebels to take over the country.

This reasoning is beyond wacky. Taylor is a hoodlum and an indicted war criminal, whose years as a rebel and later as Liberia's president have plunged the country into endless bloodshed and political repression, and created a steady stream of refugees out of the country. Because Taylor's also a weapons dealer who has sold weapons to neighboring countries like Sierra Leone, he has helped spread violence and misery to those countries as well.

The real motivation behind Robertson's support of Taylor seems to be to protect CBN's investment in a Liberian gold-mining venture. Taylor, a showman like Robertson, has been known to dress in white and conduct mass prayer meetings, even as he denies his crimes. The two belong together.

With his smug Cheshire-cat demeanor, Robertson, like a latter-day Zeus, delights in hurling down thunderbolts at the godless liberals who don't happen to agree with him. "My God will strike them down!" he says. More and more, though, he just sounds stupid.

Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.