Americans United has called on Religious Right groups to publicly denounce an Arizona pastor who is praying for the death of President Barack Obama.
The Rev. Steven Anderson of FaithfulWordBaptistChurch in Tempe became the focus of international attention in August when he told attendees that he prays that Obama “dies and goes to Hell.”
Thanks to Web sites like YouTube and Facebook, Anderson’s vitriolic message quickly traveled the globe. In an Aug. 16 sermon that was posted on YouTube, Anderson said, “If you want to know how I’d like to see Obama die, I’d like him to die of natural causes. I don’t want him to be a martyr, we don’t need another holiday. I’d like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer.”
Anderson’s sermon, titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” took place just before an Obama visit to Arizona, and a member of the congregation showed up outside the Obama event in Phoenix carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle.
Raged Anderson, “You’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things – you’re gonna tell me I’m supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he’s in Phoenix, Ariz.? Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to Hell.”
Anderson’s tirades have reportedly drawn the attention of the Secret Service.
Last month, Americans United publicly called on Religious Right groups to denounce Anderson.
“This has gone much too far,” said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “When preachers call for the death of the president or others that they disagree with, it provides a justification for acts of intimidation and violence. It’s grossly irresponsible, and the American people ought to rise up and say ‘enough is enough.’”
Anderson also blasts gay people, calling them “predators” who are “infecting our society.” He has stated that God wants gays to be “taken out and killed.”
Lynn said Religious Right leaders have a special responsibility to repudiate such rhetoric.
“National Religious Right leaders have been feeding their flock a steady diet of shrill and provocative language,” said Lynn. “It should come as no surprise when Anderson and those like him escalate the animosity.”
Lynn noted that “imprecatory prayers” (prayers that ask God to kill or otherwise harm others) have become all too common in recent years. Lynn has been the target of some himself.
California pastor Wiley Drake, former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Rev. Gordon Klingenschmitt, head of Pray In Jesus’ Name Ministries and a former Navy chaplain, have both sought prayers for the death of Lynn and others who challenged their theocratic activities.
Concluded Lynn, “Religious Right leaders have every right to make the case for their views on public issues, but when they inflame opinion with outrageous statements, they are going too far. This must stop before more tragedies occur.”