Bachmann's Church Change

July 28, 2011

Controversy erupted recently over Representative Michele Bachmann's church membership (the photo is one I took last month of her speaking at the conference of Ralph Reed's Faith & Freedom Coalition). The Republican presidential hopeful apparently moved her church membership just as she was launching her presidential campaign. On June 14, the Associated Press noted in passing that Bachmann had left her church a couple of years earlier but did not mention where she now attended. However, it was later reported that although she had not been attending the church for awhile, she did not actually move her membership until June 21--six days before officially launching her presidential run. Around this time, questions were rising about the church she left, which is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. That denomination declares on its website:

We identify the Antichrist as the papacy. This is an historical judgment based on Scripture.
This anti-Catholic position has led some to criticize Bachmann for being part of the denomination and raised questions about why she left when she did. Later in July, the New York Times reported that Bachmann now attends a congregation affiliated with the Baptist General Conference (which is the same denomination that fellow Minnesota Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty's church is part of). Bachmann claimed they left because they moved. However, their new house is closer to their old church than their new one. The switch's timing, thus, raised questions that Bachmann left for political reasons. After all, President Barack Obama faced attacks during the 2008 campaign because of controversial comments by his longtime pastor (see post here) and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain faced attacks because of endorsements he received from controversial televangelists. Such attacks on presidential candidates because of their church ties are a symptom of our age of confessional politics. However, it should not matter where Bachmman or other presidential candidates attend church (or if they do not). Regardless of whether Bachmann is Lutheran or Baptist, she should be judged on her policies and competency and not her piety. Hopefully she changed churches for spiritual--and not political--reasons. However, regardless of where she attends, she should be judged on political--and not spiritual--standards. The controversy over her former denomination and her change in churches should not be an issue in the presidential campaign.

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