Acton Institute Powerblog

Robertson’s Fatwa

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Rev. Robert Sirico responds to Pat Robertson’s highly-publicized call for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. “What is needed here, I believe, is a time of reflection. Christianity is not a national religion. It is does not regard every enemy of the nation-state as worthy of execution. It prefers peace to war. It chooses diplomacy over threat. It respects the right to life of everyone, even those who have objectionable political views,” he writes.

Read the full text here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • SteveD

    I do not believe that the US should intervene in the internal affairs of other countries unless those countries are directly and immediately threatening or have attacked the US.

    However, I do believe that conventional warfare as a response to immediate threats should be a last resort. In the case of some countries, where an unpopular autocrat is driving his country into war with the US, it is morally preferable to eliminate that autocrat and his immediate clique rather than waging war and killing thousands of involuntary draftees sent by that ruler to die doing his bidding.

    This situation does NOT apply to Colonel Chavez on either count. To be sure, Chavez is a Leninist thug, an unrepentant instigator of a military coup, a close friend of Fidel and Raul Castro and of the Colombian FARC insurgent/terrorists, and has brutally repressed non-violent dissent in Venezuela. But he has never directly threatened or attacked the United States, and he has been twice popularly and democratically elected by the politico-economically ignorant, frustrated, and impoverished majority of Venezuelans.

    Mr. Robertson was correct in preferring the elimination of one person to waging a bloody, destructive war against a whole nation. But in this case, there is no grounds for either course of action.


  • Cliff Washington

    Robert—thank you for such an informed response!

  • Rev. Samuel Nekati

    Thank you Rev. Sirico for your timely article. No one could have said it better. When I read Pat Robertson’s comments, I was very shocked and discouraged. The first time I watched the 700 Club was about 15yrs ago and I was still a young Christian. I had great admiration for Robertson. I grew in my faith and I did my Bachelors degree as well as my Masters. Throughout my academic career, I came to have great admiration and commitment to Evangelical faith. Wherever I went in the continent of Africa, I declared boldly that I was an evangelical and I was not ashamed of it one little bit. Then I came to pursue a doctoral degree in the USA. I enrolled in a respected evangelical school. It did not take me too long to realize that something was AWFULLY WRONG with evangelicalism. As I write this response to Father Sirico’s article, I no longer publicly identify myself as an evangelical.

    Father Sirico’s article is a sort of "disclaimer" about what Christianity and Evangelicalism really stand for. Once again, I commend the good Father for doing this.

    I, however, would like to say that, even though the article is a diclaimer for Christianity, it sounds every bit an apology for American ideology and its idea of freedom. Without this apologetic or "defensive" tone, Father Sirico could have successfully vindicated the Christian faith.

    I have listened to Father Sirico speak and I have great respect for him. However, I am concerned that he did not clearly where he stands on Robertson’s assertions. On one hand, Father Sirico denounces violence and discourages war as the ideal recourse to peace, but on the other hand, he says it is ok as a last resort or because some early Christian thinkers (in the Renaisance, for example) actually advocated for it. The question in this case is: how does this really repudiate Robertson’s claims? We are still left with the essential view that Robertson promulgated, to the utter shame of all evangelicals and the right wing. And what is that view? That anyone person, or any government that disagrees with the US government should is by that token an enemy to freedom and should be brought down, first through tantalizing means, or as a last resort, through military action.

    According to Father Sirico, Christianity "respects the right to life of everyone, even those who have objectionable political views." Now, we all know that the term "objectionable" is much stronger and value laden than simply "contrary." This is the beginning of all war and strife where one group of people believe that another’s political view is objectionable. This becomes more troublesome when it comes from elements that are foreigners to a particular country. I am also concerned that Colonel Chavez is labelled as a "leftist" politician. What does that mean in the context of Venezuela?

    This is essentially the problem with right wing politics in the USA, supported unabashedly by evangelicals. It has never occured to them that people out there do not classify themselves as right wing or left wing. It is also always difficult for a typical right wing American to imagine that someone out there can hold a different view and still be right. If evengelicals in this nation accepted this position, our world would be a far better place than it is now. Evangelicals started off with a great vision of world transformation, but they have lost it miserably.

    I come from a country that has recently been under a barrage of international vilification and criticism and that country is Zimbabwe.

    Before I go further, I do not want to be mistaken as a supporter of dictatorship. I am not against freedom at all. I also do not want to suggest that everything that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has done is perfect. Neither do I want to suggest that Colonel Chavez as well as Fidel Castro are all angels. But if I was reading about Venezuela and Cuba and Iraq and China, etc., without having first hand experience of a country that is also currently under western (right wing) vilification, I might be joining the bandwagon of those that uncritically attack these countries and their leaders.

    One day I was speaking with a missionary who once worked in Mozambique and he used to go to Zimbabwe a lot. He told me that he GAVE CREDIT to the opposition party in that country because, inspite of the repression from Mugabe’s government, it (the opposition) had remained peaceful and not led an armed rebellion as what usually happens in other African countries. I was shocked by this remark. Why? Because the truth of the matter is that the credit should be given to Mugabe’s government for fighting all attempts to do an armed rebellion. One of the ways this was done was to pass a law that made it illegal to stage any street protests without prior notification from the police, or to meet in groups of more than four people anywhere for any reason, other than church gatherings. This act in Zimbabwe is called Public Order and Security Act (POSA). However, it is this very act and others like it that have earned Mugabe the bad label of dictator. All of us who come from that country know very well that if that law had not been put in place, Zimbabwe would have deteriorated into a state of anarchy and it would have been ungovernable. And why? Because president Mugabe and his government do not support American right wing policies and it pleased the US government to sponsor the opposition in that country to remove Mugabe’s government.

    The situation that Zimbabwe is going through is the same that Venezuela is going through as well. Both countries are rich in natural resources. And as both Father Sirico and another Stephen D acknowledged above, both these leaders who are labelled dictators have been elected by popular democratic vote. And what does Father Sirico say? He says, Chavez "follows Fidel Castro’s model of bolstering his own dictatorship be whipping up public fear of the United States as the great Satan." What may be asked is: SO WHAT? The USA does this very same thing too, especially the right wing. It drums up support by labelling those countries it does not like as Great Satan and enemies of freedom.

    Personally, I do not care what right wing politicians do, because politicians anywhere in the world succeed by putting their opponents down, even if it is by unscrupulous means. What bothers me the strong marriage bond between right wing politics and evangelicalism.

    I fear that most people who speak about freedom in the USA, (I’m sorry to say, Father Sirico included) often do not understand what exactly people want freedom from. For Americans, it is freedom from government. Then it is assumed that people in the whole world are pursuing the same freedom too. Unfortunately, people in other parts of the world actually want freedom from America. This freedom they seek is closely related to each country’s resources. Iraq has oil, Zimbabwe has the second largest platinum deposits in the world, and Venezuela has oil among other resources.

    Unless America can clearly prove, in Iraq for example, that the oil will benefit local people and improve their lives greatly, the ideological view of American freedom will never be accepted anywhere in the world. In fact, it will increasingly be opposed.

    Those who preach freedom to others should never declare that people are to be freed from their local dictators only, but that they are to be freed from American dictatorship too. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to give freedom. But he did not give that freedom through coercion. He was willing to accept the fact that even the very people you are trying to free will reject you. This is the supreme concept of freedom that American evangelicalism should be spreading all over the world without sponsoring illegal coups and assasinations.

    A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from Zambia told me that he had been banned by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from going there to preach and plant churches. His crime? They suspected him of being a spy for western propaganda. And DRC is a country that is very rich in minerals and other natural resources. But they have known this kind of cheap politics too. Many years of civil wars that have claimed millions of lives and poverty is proverbial there. When western countries hear this, they immediately announce that there is a dictator in that country who must be immediately removed. And on and on, the cycle of wars continue.

    Most of the dictators hated by the right wing politics in the USA are not even a threat to the country. All they are saying is: leave us and our people alone to determine our destiny.

    I know that what I’ve said here is controversial, but it’s worth listening to. Is it not interesting that one of the most common characteristic among the so-called dictators is that they share a certain passion for their own people and nations? I have always asked myself: Would Americans like it if they were the poorest among other nations and they owned resources for which they have no control and from which they benefit very little, and their history was that of colonization by other external forces? I bet the definition of freedom would really be different.

  • Leroy

    Marion (Pat) Robertson is a modern 2 Cor. 11:13-15 clergyman, 11:13-15.

    For background on Robertson, see, for example,, "The Hijacking of the Christian Church" (1998),, "Christian-Terrorists and Secular-Fanatics: Licensed to Kill" (27 August 2005), and, "Christ Has Left The Building" (1 September 2005).

    Pro-liberty anti-slavery aboltionists before the Civil War identified clergymen such as him as makers of infidels, by their giving Christianity a bad name, by their wicked behavior. See for example Rev. William Patton’s 1846 anti-slavery sermon on this subject,

    Christians have historically, i.e., during the Middle Ages, been anti-war. See references at The Bible has many anti-war teachings, banning killing, lying, stealing, coveting, lusting, in for example, Exodus 20 and James 4:1-2. Such sins are inherent in war-making as Christians long knew. But one does not learn such truths from Robertson, as he is a 2 Cor 11:13-15 clergyman.

    Robertson also supports pro-tobacco politicians, even though tobacco has long been linked to causing abortions! "As early as 1902 Ballantyne had found an increase in the abortion rate in French and Austrian women working in tobacco factories.”—Beulah R. Bewley, “Smoking in Pregnancy,” British Medical Journal (Vol 288, Issue #6415) pp 424-426 (11 Feb 1984).

    About "fifty-three per cent. of . . . abortions . . . are due to tobacco. . . . inhalation of [second-hand] tobacco smoke by pregnant mothers when sitting among smokers is sufficient to cause fatal poisoning of the fœtus."—Herbert H. Tidswell, M.D., The Tobacco Habit: Its History and Pathology (London: J. & A. Churchill, 1912), p 238.

    Wherefore, says Dr. Tidswell, tobacco, including second-hand smoke, has a record of significantly leading to abortion, p 184, terminating about 1/7 of live-births, p 177.

    "The smoking mother is . . . 80 percent more likely than the nonsmoker to have a spontaneous abortion."—Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., The Politics of Cancer (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1978), p 162.

    Robertson’s illegal pro-murder words violate laws warranting Venezuela extraditing him under US law 18 USC 3184 to stand trial in Venezuela. The Nuremberg Trial, 6 FRD 69 (1946), published in the US law book Federal Rules Digest (FRD), shows that people can be convicted for their illegal words, whether for murder or for bank robbery, ‘this is a stick-up.’ By every idle word shall one be judged, said Christ.

    Bottom line: The recent remarks by "Rev." Robertson expose his true anti-life views. Perhaps Fr. Sirico can do a future column exposing Robertson’s actual anti-life views, which he seeks to cover-up by his pretended opposition to abortion, which he in fact helps cause as above noted by his regularly supporting pro-tobacco politiicans.

  • Q. Thompson

    As a God respecting, law abiding, hard working, and taxpaying libertarian, I would be more than glad if the US government would stop intervening Financially, Economically, Politically, and Militarily in the affairs of foreign nations.

    Change for the better starts with self governance and individual responsibility. The individual must take ownership of ones action and behavior. Depending on the US government to solve your problems is not going to solve them. In my opinion, millions of people believe that US foreign aid will pay their country’s problems away. I beg to differ.

    If the citizens of Venezuela are discontented with their governance, it is up them to make change without US intervention. The same goes for the citizens of Zimbabwe. However, I find it very humorous when citizens from these nations will go on C-span and demand that the US government do something about the problems in their homelands.

    I believe that positive change for any nation starts through self governing individuals working in collaboration to make a profound difference. As a follower of Christ, I think that individual Christians, Christian ministries, and civil society organizations are better agents than the government to advocate change in individuals. Jesus and His disciples were very much effective in their ministries under the hostile occupation of the Roman Empire.

    Mr. Robertson’s advocating of assassination, which I totally disagree with, in my opinion was based on his political belief more so than his faith. Even so, he only speaks for himself and not the entire US Christian community.


    THOMAS A KEMPIS —: Must reading for the Reverend Robertson — together with Reverend Sirico’s article,— ROBERTSON’S FATWA .

  • JP Anderson

    I would be interested in your insight on this…