Michele Bachmann officially leaves her church
July 15th, 2011
01:33 PM ET

Michele Bachmann officially leaves her church

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has long been a darling of conservative evangelicals, but shortly before announcing her White House bid, she officially quit a church she’d belonged to for years.

Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, and her husband, Marcus, withdrew their membership from Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, last month, according to church officials.

The Bachmanns had been members of the church for more than 10 years, according to Joel Hochmuth, director of communications for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the broader denominational body of which Bachmann’s former church is a member.

The church council granted the Bachmanns’ request to be released from their membership on June 21, Hochmuth said.

After declaring at the CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader presidential debate that she would seek the nomination, Bachmann formally announced her presidential bid June 27 in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Bachmanns approached their pastor and verbally made the request “a few weeks before the church council granted the request,” Hochmuth said. He added, “they had not been attending that congregation in over two years. They were still on the books as members, but then the church council acted on their request and released them from membership.”

Bachmann had listed her membership in the church on her campaign site for congress in 2006. She lists no church affiliation on her campaign website or her official congressional website.

Hochmuth said that a change in membership is not out of the ordinary. “You have people who are on the books as members, but they may have gone on to another church; they may not be attending a church anywhere. There’s all sorts of circumstances.”

A similar request for membership is to transfer membership from one church to another within the denomination. But that does not appear to be the case with the Bachmanns, according to Hochmuth, who said that to his knowledge, the couple was no longer attending a church within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Pastor Marcus Birkholz has been at the helm of Salem Lutheran Church for nearly three decades. When asked about the Bachmanns leaving the church, he said, “I’ve been asked to make no comments regarding them and their family.”

Bachmann was asked about her status with the church on Thursday at Reagan National Airport as she headed to catch a flight. When asked about her pastor, she asked, “Which one?” An aide quickly hustled her away, noting that they were late for a flight.

The Bachmann campaign declined to immediately respond to a request for further comment Friday.

Becky Rogness, a spokesperson in Bachmann’s congressional office, said the Congresswoman now attends a nondenominational church in the Stillwater area but did not know the name of the church or how long she had been attending.

Hochmuth said that, “My understanding of the situation was the timing of the request for release was far more coincidental than strategic.”

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has come under criticism from some Catholics for its views on the papacy, an institution that the denomination calls the Antichrist.

"We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy," the denomination's website says. "This is an historical judgment based on Scripture."

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement Thursday about Bachmann's denomination, saying it's "regrettable that there are still strains of anti-Catholicism in some Protestant circles."

"But we find no evidence of any bigotry on the part of Rep. Michele Bachmann," the statement continued. "Indeed, she has condemned anti-Catholicism. Just as President Barack Obama is not responsible for the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rep. Bachmann must be judged on the basis of her own record."

The debate over the legitimacy of the papacy goes back to the Protestant Reformation. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod's namesake is Martin Luther, who led the 16th century Reformation and who opposed the papacy.

“The issue of the papacy as the Antichrist does go back to Luther - he did use that terminology,” said Professor George C. Heider, theology chair at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran school in Indiana.

“Luther’s point was, that in his view, the pope was so obstructing the gospel of God’s free love in Jesus, even though he wore all the trappings of a leader in the church," Heider said. "He was functioning as the New Testament describes it as the Antichrist.”

Still, Heider notes that Roman Catholics and Lutherans have close ties today. They recognize each other's baptisms, a point of contention in relations between the Catholic Church and other Protestant denominations.

Salem Lutheran Church still maintains some ties with the Bachmann family. It lists a Christian counseling center operated by Bachmann’s husband on its website under special member services for confidential counseling.

Hochmuth said there are no formal ties between the counseling center and the denomination but added that it is not uncommon for churches to link off to members’ websites as in this case.

Bachmann and Associates has faced accusations that it uses a controversial therapy that encourages gay and lesbian patients to change their sexual orientation.

In an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune published Friday, Marcus Bachmann did not deny that he or other counselors at his clinic used the technique but said they did so only at the request of a patient.

"Is it a remedy form that I typically would use?” he said. "It is at the client's discretion."

Salem Lutheran Church has about 800 members and holds three services each weekend. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is often referred to as theologically conservative. The denomination opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, both positions Bachmann has long endorsed politically.

The denomination has approximately 390,000 members in 48 states and 1,300 congregations in the United States and Canada.

Presidential candidates’ affiliation with churches and pastors played a dramatic role in the 2008 campaign for president.

Then-candidate Barack Obama resigned from his Chicago church in May 2008 after videos surfaced of his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, delivering fiery sermons that criticized certain U.S. policies.

In the speeches, Wright suggested that the U.S. government may be responsible for the spread of AIDS in the black community and equated some American wartime activities to terrorism.

Wright officiated Obama’s wedding and baptized his children, and the Obamas were members at Wright’s church for years. After a sustained attention on Wright, Obama distanced himself from his former pastor.

During the same election cycle, Republican presidential nominee John McCain rejected endorsements from two prominent pastors, John Hagee and Rod Parsley, for controversial statements from the pastors’ pasts.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Michele Bachmann • Politics

soundoff (2,666 Responses)
  1. NClaw441

    My understanding is that President Obama is a Christian (although he had to be reminded of that once by George Stephenopoulos). I seldom see any attacks here on HIS Christianity. Why is that, I wonder.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Renny

      Because, see my post above yours. The media wuestions NOTHING and gets NO information about little o, our fearless leader, EVER.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • AvdBerg


      For a better understanding whether or not Obama is a Christian we invite you to read the articles "Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You? and "Barack Obama ~ President of the United States of America" listed on our website http://www.aworlddececeived.ca

      July 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • maniacmudd

      b b but nobodys sayin bad things about "them"...... why do everybody be pickin on us pretty conservatives??? wah.. wahwahwah...

      July 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • NW1000

      Yes, he did make that slip once on TV, and said "My Muslim faith," or something like that? Good old lap dog George bailed him out though. Whew, close one...

      July 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • revbell

      How can one attack what doesn't exist?

      July 16, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  2. cw1545

    Truth be told, there have been so many amalgamations of the Bible that it is thoroughly impossible to ascertain the truth from any one them. I mean how did Luther even know whether or not he was following the will of God. To my knowledge he wasn't able to read ancient Hebrew or Aramaic. And what of the parts that were intentionally left out of the Bible?

    July 16, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • William

      I think his issue was the fact that the common person couldnt read the bible because it was in Latin. Hence the Church was able to say and do what they want with their own interpretation of the bible. That leads to abuse and he saw it. that being said Luther was a horrid anti-Semitic.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      I will tell you something. Assumed, Mr. Obama would send a letter to a German newspaper and it would be published, nobody would refuse to believe that the letter is true. Assumed, all American Universities would send a agreeing copy of Obama's letter to Germany, all the more the people would think, the letter is true.

      The antiquity has send us a supertanker filled with agreeing copys of the Bible. Thus, I have no doubts at all, regarding the truth of the Bible.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Dee Doodles

      Hey ....if your right. What do you gain. (very little)? If Christians are right what will you loss? Everything. Your beliefs are not even in your best interests.

      Sorry your opinion will not effect the future of the universe. You are just dust to dust.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  3. William

    After 20 years in a racist church that regularly says GD the USA i can see why she would leave.......

    July 16, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  4. cw1545

    Republicans have done a miraculous job keeping at least part of poor and middle class by creating racial disharmony. The saddest thing is, that knowledge is available now. People no longer live in isolated societies in the U.S. Once upon a time you could call racism ignorance, now its flat-out stupidity.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  5. Reality

    The status of the "Reformation":-------

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals, fleeing politicians and atonement theology,

    July 16, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • William

      Yes, nowadays the Church relfects out society. We can see what Relativism does to society and churches.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    Passage from the above article: "We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy," the denomination's website says. "This is an historical judgment based on Scripture." End of passage.

    We should not lay too much stress on the term "Antichrist". Why did Luther use this term? At Luther's time the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) with her papacy had brought an incredible darkness over the Western World. By her false doctrines the RCC had almost exterminated the true gospel. Before Luther became a Christian, he was a Roman Catholic supervisor (he monitored several monastries of the Augustinians). The Augustinians called him St. Paul, for he was so diligent. However, Luther felt in his heart that he was not in peace with God. Once Luther studied the "Epistle to the Romans" and suddenly got the inspiration that salvation is not by works, but by faith. This is called the "Turm-Erlebnis (tower-experience)".

    So, Luther rediscovered the gospel, which was about to be forgotten by the mankind (really!).

    By the bull "Unam Sanctam" the pope had declared, someone could get saved soley on the condition being a member of the RCC. Actually the true gospel is: "Believe in Jesus Christ and you are righteous." The pope's false gospel was: "Be obedient to the pope and you are blessed".

    In conclusion: The pope had invented a new, false gospel and by that he led people to hell, because a false gospel can save nobody.

    Of course, there is no worse crime, than leading people to hell, which is a kind of soulkilling.

    Getting aware of this crime of the pope, Luther got very annoyed at the pope and finally called him Antichrist. Of course, Luther send a lot of letters to Rome, but the popes refused to accept the true gospel, and thus Luther's wrath increased.
    Furthermore in the course of time the pope tryed to kill Luther (Luther survived, because his local prince protected him against the pope and the emperor).

    The true gospel: Believe in Jesus Christ, who died for your sins, and you are righteous. At baptism you are connected with the releasing power of Jesus' death and resurrection, so that you can follow Christ. Someone, who believes and gets baptized, will be saved. Faith and discipleship belong together.

    The act of salvation consists of faith and, and, and baptism. By faith and baptism you enter the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church. That is according to the Bible and Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Waykup

      Blah, blah blah, jebus, who will even read all this...?

      July 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Lazy people have never achieved much. When you want to remain poor, remain poor. Who cares.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Dave

      Religous nutjobs have no place in politics. Just keep bilking the old people and control the people who fear giant invisible magical fairies.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      People like you live in Siberia. Obviously they are still poor. It is high time that we get rid of persons like you. Keep on sleeping, Siberian.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  7. EddyL

    So she "left" her loony evangelical church? She's still a looney evangelical who is anti-gay, anti-Catholic, anti-choice. She's still a liar and hypocrite, sucking in hundreds of thousands of Medicare money through her and her husband's loony clinic.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  8. cw1545

    And while we are on the subject of Wright situation, it seems ironic that some of the most high-charged racial comments that came from that situation were in part created by a white pastor there as a guest. I guess he's part of the black liberation party too.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  9. Waykup

    Seriously, I don't care what church she belongs to. Keep your religion out of my government.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  10. cw1545

    So by that statement am I to understand that there are no people that do good works in this world besides Christians?

    July 16, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  11. cw1545

    Guess what........Catholics are Christians too!!!

    July 16, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Greg Morris

      Are they? Jesus said 'There is no way to the Father but through me' (paraphrased). Where does the Pope belong in that concept? No where!

      July 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  12. Ron

    Will the media be digging into whether or not Candidate Obama's ties to black liberation theology will influence the way he would govern?

    "the most beautiful sound in the world is the muslim call to prayer"

    Barak Hussein......

    btw, can anyone name any other "Christian" churches, other than Barak's that gave their MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD to a Muslim? Louis Farrakhan, man of the year??????

    yep, there's no such thing as a liberal media bias

    July 16, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Jeff

      Great post !

      July 16, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Raffly

      You must graduated from Tea Bag University, Barack Hussein is very common name in Middle East, for Moslem or Non Moslem. many of Iraq or Iran Christian man have hussein for their name, I have friend name Muhammad from Indonesia and he is Catholic. Are you smarter than 5th grade?????

      July 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  13. cw1545

    Obama's bankrupting America but we're still in the mix of 2 wars created by Bush, tax-cuts that weren't payed for by Bush, and near economic collapse from economic deregulation that took place under Bush. Knowledge is the fundamental key to understanding, but knowledge can't be obtained without logic. Logic and reasoning is what separates man from animal. When you simply repeat what you hear without analyzing it, you are relegating yourself to the position of a parrot.

    July 16, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Ron

      Tell us how it's a good thing that Obowell quadrupled Bush's old record setting budget deficit........maybe you would also like to admit that there are no real anti-war protesters, just Bush hating liars..........

      You clowns crack me up

      July 16, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • innocent by-stander

      Here we go again, Bush did it-–!

      He didn't run this country into the ground, like someone we won't mention here.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  14. Mary Smith

    Unbelieveable! You are going to have the audacity to even MENTION that she changed churches when you absolutely IGNORED the radical church our President belonged to????? This is how CNN and all the other MSM looses credibility with the American people. Thank GOD for FOX!!!!

    July 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Jeff

      You hit the nail on the head there. Good thing no one even watches CNN anymore...

      July 16, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Jimmy

      If you believe the "news" they report of FOX, you are even more terrifying than Michele Bachmann.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • D.Furrey

      at least CNN is doing there jobs NOW when the presidential candidate is GOP.
      Besides that, is there ANY news in this story? Bachmanns haven't been attending this Church regularly for 2 yrs AND .... punchline, pls insert!

      July 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • D.Furrey

      @jimmy – ARE YOU DELUSIONAL?
      The "mainstream" media reported NOTHING on Obama's church of 20yrs where this pastor (Wright) married the first couple & presided over many family affairs & baptisms – UNTIL A FOX COMMENTATOR (Hannity) kept on reporting on this it and eventually forced other "news" channels.

      Do me a favor? Drop the glue & just walk away?

      You are a liberal & there is no problem with you disagreeing with FOX Conservative Commentators, but are you just THAT stupid to lump FOX News together with their commentators –OR– is it just a Liberal's inability to separate the truth from your own sad reality?

      July 16, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  15. Grumpy

    That woman could quit my church anytime!

    July 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  16. Kathy

    Funny, I don't recall the MSM digging too terribly hard into Obama's religious beliefs. Funny also that leftists so happy to trash any and all things Christian seem fine with Obama self identifying as one unless of course they believe he's lying.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:57 am |
  17. cw1545

    What that she doesn't belong to a church and hasn't been a active member of one for 2 years? There is no logic to that.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • William

      Why are you so mean? Its not like that hope and change thing worked.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  18. Jeff

    Obama bankrupts America for generations to come with record breaking deficit spending and we're worried about the Bachmann's changing churches? My parents did that too last year. I'll write you an article on that too if you like dummies !

    July 16, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Les

      I change Church s
      a few years ago? think they will come and crucified me?

      July 16, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • News Flash

      Funny how people rewrite history to suit themselves. The debt ceiling was raised 7, count 'em, 7 times under Dubya to pay for his foreign adventuring, and the (BUSH) tax cuts.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Andrew

      This woman has no connection to Jesus.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  19. AvdBerg

    It was good to hear that Michele Bachman left the Church but we are sorry to hear that she joined another one. For a better understanding what it means to be a member of a local church and what spirit it serves (Luke 9:55) we invite you to read the articles “Church and what it means” and “Can Christianity or any other religion save you?” listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
    All of the other pages and articles will explain that “The most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24).

    July 16, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • News Flash

      "It was good to hear that Michele Bachman left the Church but we are sorry to hear that she joined another one"
      a. her name is Bachmann
      b. so from that one would conclude you don't want her to belong to any church. OK. What ?

      July 16, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • AvdBerg

      @News Flash

      The whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9. For a better understanding please read all the pages and articles on our website.

      July 16, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  20. cw1545

    When did competency not become a requirement for public office? I mean I know the republicans have been drudging along the intellectual sea for quite some time now but, this new crop, these guys/girls take the cake.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:55 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.