The right-wing Texas Pastor Council is pushing hard to get conservative Christians to the polls in November. But perhaps the group should consider choosing a messenger who doesn’t offend a lot of those very Christians.
An email Wednesday from the group to supporters includes an appeal for Tim LaHaye, a prominent fundamentalist preacher and coauthor of the apocalyptic “Left Behind” books, to pastors:
“As a Bible-teaching pastor for the past 66 years and a Christian author, I am more deeply concerned about America than ever before. Not just because the anti-Christian secular left controls the media, public education, most of the entertainment industry and our present government, but BECAUSE A MAJORITY OF EVANGELICALS AND ALL CHRISTIANS DO NOT EVEN BOTHER TO VOTE!”
The rest of LaHaye’s message calls for pastors to preach politics from their pulpits on October 7 — part of what religious-right groups are calling “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a challenge to the federal law that prohibits tax-exempt nonprofits from engaging in partisan politics.
All of that is standard religious-right fare. But the Texas Pastor Council also prefaces its message with a headline calling LaHaye “one of the greatest pastors of our time.”
Really? More than a few Catholics would likely disagree. Our friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State have reported on some of LaHaye’s outrageous comments about the Catholic Church:
As the ’80s progressed and the Reagan years wound down, however, Tim LaHaye’s public profile dropped. Although he spoke enthusiastically in 1985 about backing TV preacher Robertson for president in 1988, by the time the first round of GOP primaries got under way LaHaye had switched candidates and was an official adviser to former New York congressman Jack Kemp.
When he joined the Kemp team, opponents of the Religious Right began digging into his past and soon uncovered a litany of intolerant statements. Four days after signing on to the campaign, LaHaye was forced to resign after information came to light noting that LaHaye had called Roman Catholicism “a false religion” and had on one occasion asserted that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death.
More damaging revelations soon leaked out. It came to light that LaHaye’s church in San Diego throughout the 1970s had sponsored an anti-Catholic group called Mission to Catholics. One pamphlet produced by the group asserted that Pope Paul VI was the “archpriest of Satan, a deceiver, and an antichrist, who has, like Judas, gone to his own place.”
Even the conservative Catholic League has condemned LaHaye’s “hysterical animosity” toward Catholicism.
But the Texas Pastor Council — which bills itself as “trans-denominational” — thinks LaHaye is a really swell guy. (Read more about LaHaye’s history of extremism in AU’s illuminating article.)