Pat Robertson gains the support of several Christian leaders, and seeks 3 million campaign volunteers.

Christian talk show host Pat Robertson has determined that God wants him to run for President, and he is waiting to see if at least 3 million Americans agree. At a celebration last month in Washington, D.C., the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network told several thousand enthusiastic listeners they must signal their support for him by signing petitions pledging “our prayers, our work, our gifts” to his campaign. The minimum suggested contribution is $100.

Similar petitions have been mailed to potential supporters around the country. Marc Nuttle, a political consultant who is expected to play a significant role in Robertson’s campaign, told a private luncheon gathering there are 300,000 names on the Americans for Robertson mailing list in Texas alone. Americans for Robertson is a committee formed to “test the waters” for a presidential bid.

Robertson said he will become a declared candidate after 3 million registered voters return their petitions with a contribution or a pledge. The tentative date set for his official announcement is September 17, 1987. Meanwhile, Americans for Robertson will coordinate his campaign activities. Robertson called for several “draft Robertson” committees to cease their activities and consolidate with Americans for Robertson.

Robertson’S Vision

At Washington’s Constitution Hall, Robertson spoke to a crowd of approximately 3,000 after a program of musical productions marking the 199th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The program was beamed by satellite to 216 locations across the country. Robertson officials estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 people attended the event at the closed-circuit video sites.

Robertson said the vision of America’s founders, of “one nation under God,” needs to be restored. “We have permitted during the past 25 years an assault on our faith and values that would have been unthinkable to past generations of Americans,” he said. The evidence of this is all around, he said, in public school textbooks, court rulings, entertainment media, and disintegrating families.

“Now in 1986 the same liberal elites that gave us the problem deny the cause and tell us that this is a problem for government,” Robertson said. “What we are facing is not a governmental problem, it is a moral problem.” To repeated rounds of cheers and applause, he said, “The answer lies in a new rise of faith and freedom that will give to every American a vision of hope—a vision of opportunity.”

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Robertson’s goals include tougher discipline to achieve drug-and alcohol-free schools; basic math and language instruction; and classroom prayer. “There can be no education without morality, and there can be no lasting morality without religion,” he said. “For the sake of our children, we must bring God back to the classrooms of America.”

Robertson pledged to maintain religious liberty for all, saying, “The atheists among us should have every right of citizenship—the right to print, to broadcast, to speak, to persuade, to own businesses, to organize politically, to run for office.” He added that the remaining 94 percent of Americans who believe in God, according to a Gallup poll, do not have to “dismantle our entire public affirmation of faith in God just to please a tiny minority who don’t believe in anything.”

Fiscal responsibility is another part of Robertson’s vision. He called for a balanced federal budget and the dismantling of “unnecessary [government] departments and agencies.” To address record trade deficits, Robertson supports “a partnership between the government, American business, and the American working men and women.”

He advocated a strong national defense, in order to be able to “resist any further spread of communist tyranny.” He asked whether Americans dare “turn a deaf ear to the cries for material help from those brave freedom fighters in Angola, in Afghanistan, in Mozambique, in Nicaragua.”


Religious leaders and other Robertson supporters offered endorsements and testimonials before his appearance at Constitution Hall. Jimmy Draper, pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Pat Robertson understands the past, and thus he is able to lead us into the future.… He is uniquely qualified to protect us from the threats we face today”

Draper praised Robertson’s commitment to Christ, saying, “America is to be a biblical republic that offers religious freedom to all but does not deny its theistic base.” Draper read a letter from former Southern Baptist president Charles Stanley, who wrote, “I encourage you to pursue the course which God has laid before you.… Be assured of my prayers and support.”

Evangelist Oral Roberts said he had never before offered public support to a political figure, but he called Robertson “the man I trust the most to help hurting people.” Roberts had just returned from a trip to Japan and Korea, where he said government leaders knew about Robertson’s possible candidacy and viewed him as a real contender.

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Bishop J.O. Patterson, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, cited Robertson’s campaign against illiteracy as evidence that he “sees a problem and starts working for a solution.” Patterson called Robertson’s anticipated bid for office the fulfillment of “a dream of a vast segment of the American populace.”

Beverly LaHaye, founder and president of Concerned Women of America, said, “If Pat Robertson decides to run and is elected, his administration policies and strong religious and moral background will help return America to strong families once again.”

Other endorsements came from former football star Roosevelt Grier; A. L. Williams, Jr., chairman of A. L. Williams Life Insurance Company; and Ben Waldman, who headed a Jewish coalition for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984. Waldman has resigned as associate director of personnel at the White House to work for Americans for Robertson.

Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who was not present at the Washington event, also has pledged his support after expressing early hesitations about a Robertson candidacy.


Robertson’s day in the sun was clouded only slightly by the release of a videotape produced by People for the American Way (PAW). Entitled “Pat Robertson: In His Own Words,” the program presents a series of excerpts from Robertson’s “700 Club” talk show. It concentrates exclusively on comments he has made about current issues, and does not show him praying for healings.

PAW also released a report calling Robertson an “extremist with a baby face.” PAW officials said their organization’s project is designed to discredit Robertson by providing evidence that his views place him in the right-wing radical fringe of society, rather than in the mainstream. Most of the video clips were taken from “700 Club” programs that aired in the past two years; the oldest are from 1983.

PAW’s video presentation covers Robertson’s views on the U.S. Constitution, public education, social security, the banking system, and women’s rights. He is shown criticizing the view of the Supreme Court justices that constitutional rights should be uniform in all 50 states. (The view that constitutionally guaranteed rights apply to individual states, as well as at the national level, has been the basis of case law for many years.) Robertson also has called the Supreme Court justices “coercive Utopians.” On the social security system, he said he agreed with U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) that the government should no longer run the program.

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On women’s rights, the PAW video shows Robertson talking about headship within marriage. Jesus is the head of the family, he says, and the husband “is to be the high priest of the family.” The video makes no differentiation between when Robertson is speaking as a Christian teacher or minister, and when he is addressing political issues. Southern Baptist clergyman and former congressman John Buchanan spoke on behalf of PAW, saying Robertson has every right to his religious views as well as his political views. “Religion enhances public life,” Buchanan said, “but all who are in public life need to play by certain rules of fairness and by the same rules. No one can claim to be chairman of the Lord’s political action committee.”

The PAW video concludes with an interview of Robertson conducted by a Christian Broadcasting Network reporter, who asked about Robertson’s prayer concerning Hurricane Gloria in 1984. Robertson prayed that the hurricane would not reach shore near Virginia Beach, Virginia, headquarters city of his television network. The hurricane did not touch the Virginia coast, and the effect of his prayer apparently was a test for Robertson of whether he should continue praying about seeking the presidency. “It was extremely important,” he said, “because I felt … that if I couldn’t move a hurricane, I could hardly move a nation.” If the hurricane had come ashore in Virginia Beach, Robertson said, he would have immediately ceased considering plans to run for office.

A Robertson associate told supporters the PAW video was not as damaging as they had anticipated. At the same time, the Robertson team expects many more attacks on their would-be candidate. Robertson, seeking prayer support from his wife before last month’s announcement, heard her ask God to give him skin like “an elephant hide.”

By Beth Spring.

How Does the Republican Party View Christian Voters?

The Republican party is intent on attracting a majority of American voters into its ranks. Masterminding this effort, known as the “1991 Plan,” is Frank Fahrenkopf, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Conservative Christians are an important part of the Republican party’s new coalition, Fahrenkopf says, but that does not make them a monolithic voting bloc. In an interview with CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Fahrenkopf explained how Republican party organizers and politically active Christians are getting along.

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What role do you see evangelical Christians playing in the reorganization of the Republican party?

Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, self-identification of American voters has been static. About 50 percent of the voters have called themselves Democrats, 25 percent Republicans, and 25 percent independents or nonpartisan. Many in all three categories were evangelical Christians, and particularly in the South most of them were Democrats.

Thanks largely to the leadership of President Reagan, the breakdown of the American electorate has changed. Today it is 40 percent Democrat, 40 Republican, and cent independent. A large portion of the people who moved from a Democratic or independent affiliation are evangelicals. They felt the Republican party best represented what they wanted for their families, communities, and country. As we approach 1988, we are seeing more involvement and interest in party politics by these people.

Do you perceive evangelical Christians as a voting bloc?

No, I don’t. Reporters say to me, “You Republicans are going to have a terrible time because of these evangelicals.” They usually equate Pat Robertson and his supporters with the role Jesse Jackson has played in the Democratic party. I tell them those are two totally different movements. If Jackson’s presidential candidacy was divisive for the Democrats, it was because any time he ran in a primary he got 85 to 95 percent of the black vote. Those votes would normally be distributed over a whole range of candidates in the Democratic party.

In contrast, the Christian Right is anything but monolithic. Robertson has a core of supporters who are evangelical Christians. But Jerry Falwell and many of his followers, for example, are backing George Bush. Jack Kemp has strong evangelical support. And Bob Dole, Bill Armstrong, and Paul Laxalt would attract the votes of evangelical Christians.

Is there a chance for disruption within state Republican party organizations?

We’ve seen very little of that. There were some complaints in Iowa about evangelical involvement. But if the party officers at the county level are not organizing politically and involving new people, they risk being replaced. Politics is a business of inclusion. If someone can come along and throw the leaders out, it means they weren’t doing their job. And that may have nothing to do with whether it’s an evangelical group that throws them out.

Does any aspect of Christian political involvement pose a threat to your plans to build the party?

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Most party leaders welcome the involvement and commitment of evangelicals and other new members of the Republican party. They see it as an opportunity rather than a threat. There is no question, however, that if a singleissue group came in and made a move to take over the party, that would be destructive.

What about activists who are insistent about issues such as abortion and homosexuality?

The strength of the two-party system is that both parties provide a broad umbrella for different views. Ronald Reagan can hold strong personal views about abortion. But that doesn’t mean that anyone who disagrees with him should be thrown out of the Republican party. However, some people in the party are intolerant. They don’t want evangelicals involved because they feel evangelicals may, in turn, be intolerant toward them.

A lot of Republican support comes from younger voters who are economic conservatives but social libertarians. Will they be able to coexist with people who hold conservative views on lifestyle issues?

Some people are predicting a tremendous conflict between these young voters and the evangelicals who are more conservative on all issues. The secret of putting together an effective political coalition in this country is an umbrella broad enough to include all within the framework of the party. And that is something that can be accomplished. I see no evidence that these dire predictions of conflict are accurate.

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