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. cheryl

    Sounds like a political ploy to me, but what's new!.

    July 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • gena

      Anti-Catholics who pretend the Pope is the antichrist are ignorant of history – Martin Luther recanted his 21 Theses and returned to the Catholic Church after he saw the devastating and corrupt effects of his actions. MARTIN LUTHER RECANTED AND RETURNED TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH – why do they not ever discuss that? Why do they just ignore parts of history that they do not want to recognize? and pretending its based upon Scriptures – that is even more ignorant and moronic.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  2. Tina Brown

    6th generation Democrat here and seems number 23,000 responder. In 2008-09 it seemed everyone I knew including me voted for President Obama. There was historical significance for all blacks including myself. I now realize the historical significance also deferred the degree of media vetting normally thrust upon a presidential candidate. I'm still proud of Barack but this didn't turn out so well for the country. I don’t know if it’s too late for another Democrat to step up but my vote will not be going the same way next time. I have always liked Michelle Bachman, she's smart and should the DNC not put forth another candidate I will change party affiliation and begin looking Ms. Bachman’s way.

    July 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Tina Brown

      Hey -Tina...

      Are you talking about President Obama...? You mean arguably 'the' single most 'vetted' man ever to hold the office of President of the U.S...?

      You mean the guy who has had his... citizenship, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc, etc... all, not only 'before' he became President, but still even now is -continually- called into question by not only the media, but most specifically the radical Christian Right...?

      That guy...? You're right, there obviously hasn't been 'enough' investigating into our current President. 😯

      I'm not so sure that you are accurate in your posting regarding this. (IMHO).



      July 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  3. stargazer

    All religions have their good and bad and we have seen that thrugh-out hisotry. Only Christ is perfect. Catholism is the closest thing to that.

    July 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • JIm8

      Spaghetti Monseterism is a lot closer to the truth


      July 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  4. StateControlledMedia

    I bet she could produce a real birth certificate if asked. Why has O'dummy set up a task force to fight off any law suits regarding his birth? Why has he spent almost 3 mil blocking attempts to prove he truly is a Muslim. You Obamadrones need to open your eyes but you wouldn't recognize the truth if it smacked you in the face. Your stupid. How's the hope and change going?

    July 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • pithymcgee

      Why did John McCain spend $2M in legal fees in that same election period? Same reason Obama spent almost $3M – because EVERY CANDIDATE HAS LEGAL FEES. They weren't all related to moronic suits filed by people with no standing who got their law degree from a fvcking cereal box (Orley Taitz). Grow a brain you dolt.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Iain T

      Your nothing but a bigot and Islamophobe. Why don't you crawl back under your comfy rock.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Iain T

      You're nothing but a bigot and Islamophobe. Why don't you just crawl back under your comfy little rock.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Danny

    Poor Michele Bachmann!


    July 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  6. Nellie

    Michele Bachmann's olive-brown skin tone doesn't seem to fit her name at all. She's probably an illegal alien from the south using an assumed name. Has anyone seen her birth certificate?

    July 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  7. AvdBerg

    There seems to be a lot of Conversation about Lutherans vs. Catholics today. For a better understanding of the history of the Catholic Church, we invite you to read the articles The Mystery Babylon and Popes and the Princes of This World on our website. Remember history is based on proven facts, unless one tries to ignore it. Also to get a better understanding of the spirit Lutherans and Catholics both serve (John 8:34), we invite you to read the article Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You? It is noteworthy that the word “Christianity” does not exist in the Bible and neither does the word “Theology”.
    You will be able to locate our website on Google under the entries “world deceived” or “a world deceived” and it will be your first listing.

    July 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Nellie

      AvdBerg, put some black pepper and rancid fat on your stupid website, then eat it.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Doc Kimble

      I am a " Recovering Anti-Catholic". It became obvious to me that the only real unity that exited within Protestantism was....protest.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • AvdBerg


      Matthew 5:11. Blessed are ye, when man shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, for my sake.
      Matthew 5:12. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  8. zane

    Really? THIS is a story? Sounds like an attempted "hit job", but even sucks at that. Thanks Mr. Marrapodi.

    July 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • pithymcgee

      And the right's attack on Obama about his church was unfounded as well, then... right? Anyway, this isn't about a "hit job." This woman injects her insidious hateful faith into her campaign on a regular basis. I was worried about Obama and his choice of church to a degree, but I've never noticed the man act like he really gives a damn about religion in any way. Bachman won't stop with the pious act, so her actions relating to that will be heavily covered.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Nellie

      Michele Bachmann's brown skin tone doesn't seem to fit her name at all. She's probably an illegal alien from the south using an assumed name. Has anyone seen her birth certificate?

      July 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  9. jackspratt1

    attack the liberals at every turn – don't watch their tv programs and notify the sponsors of their shows you are not buying their products any more – their god is money/lying/abortion(murder)/want me to continue – Lord except they repent and believe on you remove them

    July 16, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • VegasRage

      You are a lost ball

      July 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Jack...

      You Said: "attack the liberals at every turn – don't watch their tv programs and notify the sponsors of their shows you are not buying their products any more – their god is money/lying/abortion(murder)/want me to continue – Lord except they repent and believe on you remove them."

      So... I'm guessing you are for a Christian Theocracy here in the U.S. ? You have equated liberals with having 'non-religious' views.

      It's the people like you that when 'believers' ask..."why are the atheists, agnostics, believers in any religion-other than Christianity so concerned about ?"

      Well, there you go... your posting above is basically...' If you don't believe like I believe, let's just basically 'shut' them out of society... unless, of course, they 'see the light' and... accept Jesus, etc... and believe like you do.

      Then... We will stop boycotting them, punishing them, shutting them out of society, etc...



      July 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Nellie

      Michele Bachmann's olive-brown skin doesn't seem to fit her name at all. She's probably an illegal alien from the south using an assumed name. Has anyone seen her birth certificate?

      July 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  10. Iain T

    Who gives a hoot about what brand of Hocus
    Pocus she is a member of or not?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  11. Richard

    Liberals are sad little crybabies I love to watch them go bye in a boat full of tears. Nobody said anything about Obamby when he talked about him Muslim religion and George Steponoplis had to dig him out of it!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Iain T

      If your intellect reflects your ability to spell you are well suited to be a conservative.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Billy Boy

      Get a grip! Your president is a Christian. He is Not a Muslim.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Nellie

      Michele Bachmann's olive-brown skin tone doesn't seem to fit her name. She's probably an illegal alien from the south using an assumed name. Has anyone seen her birth certificate?

      July 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • D Waarheid

      Billy Boy
      Obama a christian? Not by a long shot , he,s a self confessing muslim! web search it.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @D Waarheid

      Are you certain he's a Muslim. Hmm.... I don't think so.

      I looked it up and this is what I found. Do you have any actual and credible 'proof' about your claim...?

      Anyway, here is at least one article that I found... here it is:

      Religious views

      As he described in The Audacity of Hope, Obama is a Christian whose religious views developed in his adult life. He wrote that he "was not raised in a religious household". He described his mother, raised by non-religious parents (whom Obama has specified elsewhere as "non-practicing Methodists and Baptists"), to be detached from religion, yet "in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known". He described his father as "raised a Muslim", but a "confirmed atheist" by the time his parents met, and his stepfather as "a man who saw religion as not particularly useful". Obama explained how, through working with black churches as a community organizer while in his twenties, he came to understand "the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change".[293]
      On September 27, 2010, Obama released a statement commenting on his religious views saying "I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't—frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead—being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me."[294][295]
      Obama was baptized at the Trinity United Church of Christ in 1988 and was an active member there for two decades.[296] Obama resigned from Trinity during the Presidential campaign after controversial statements made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright became public.[297] After a prolonged effort to find a church to attend regularly in Washington, Obama announced in June 2009 that his primary place of worship would be the Evergreen Chapel at Camp David.[298]

      -Barack Obama, 'Wikipedia'



      July 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  12. John


    July 16, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  13. Bigwavedave

    Sounds like she is pulling an Obama/time to get away from their hangouts.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  14. Tom

    That does it! I start working for Bachman tomorrow!!!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  15. Rob

    I know I quit my Sams Club membership when I decided to run for office.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  16. Thomas

    I'm not sure if I have heard of a bigger NON-issue. Is this in any way relevant to her campaign?

    July 16, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Kenneth

      It is to the evangelicals. If the church you belong to is not right wing enough for them, then you do not share their beliefs. They give you no wiggle room on that.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • turtledove

      Trying to distance herself from the repellent church she's been a member of for years - just as she's running for President? I'd say that's worth mentioning.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Tom...

      I would suggest that 'basically' anything that any and all candidates running for the office of President of the United States say and do is open for scrutiny.

      It is part of the way we come to understand the people that are running. An issue or something that a candidate said may or may not be important to you, but it may have relevance in someone else's decision making process.



      July 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • SpringerRider

      I am evangelical, born-again Christian. Yet I would support an Atheist that was for small, limited government, the fair tax, lower taxes, free enterprise, strong national defense, repealing ObamaCare and against abortion. Bachmann works for me regardless of her religion.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  17. Keith Greene

    Thanks CNN for your Nazi form of censorship, especially removing my FACTS!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Kenneth

      From the tone of this particular post, they may have had good reason. And sometimes one person's FACTS are everyone else s fantasy.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Keith Greene

      No, your posting got caught in the 'auto-moderation filter' Anyone who doesn't know about the filter, or has yet to master getting around will have some postings get caught.

      There is a list of forbidden words and word-fragments that goes around here. You may want to consult that listing. Words like consti-tution have to be broken up because they have the word t-i-t in the middle.



      July 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Tony Cisneros

    Historically, LUTHERANS Have Always Professed & Believed That The Roman Catholic Papacy, In This Case Pope Benedict XVI, Is The Antichrist &-Or Antichrist ! Bachmann's Former LUTHERAN CHURCH Still Believes In The Historic LUTHERAN Profession & Belief–AS I ALSO DO–And I'm NOT A LUTHERAN !

    Truthfully, Honestly & Sincerely Yours,

    Tony Cisneros
    2011 Candidate For City Treasurer,
    City Of Chicago,
    State Of Illinois,
    United States Of America.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Nellie

      Tony is another kook running for office.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  19. BadTigz

    Although I am not a Bachmann supporter, I have no issue with her leaving her church (or not naming her church). She – not her church – is running for president. Her candidacy should focus on her, not her religion or denomination.

    July 16, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • pithymcgee

      Problem is, she uses her religion as part of her platform.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Dina

      At least she isn't a closet Muslim who lied about her beliefs to get elected. Nothing wrong with her husband being in Christian Counseling. He's working, he's serving, he has a right to do that.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  20. Lee

    You know, I wasn't really considering voting for Bachman until I saw how the liberal press and liberals in general have responded to her. I guess the idea of a strong, intelligent, conservative woman is just more than your tiny, closed minds can bear! I especially enjoy watching the veins in Rachel MadCow's temples just THROB whenever she talks about Bachman. The problem is that you can't go after Bachman with the same blind, unabashed hatred and vitriol that you did with Palin because the small segment of the population that hasn't caught on to you yet might actually begin to understand what you're all about. The more I learn about Bachman and what she stands for, the more I like her. You're going to hear that a lot from people over the next year! If you libtards thought you suffered through the Bush years, just wait until you have a REAL conservative in office!! Maybe all of you should consider emigrating to Venezuela! I'm sure Hugo will be happy to take you in! Viva La Revolution!!!

    July 16, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -Lee...

      I'm sincerely interested in your opinions. It seems from your posting that you have been keeping tabs on Bachmann as to who and what she is about as a "real conservative" as you stated.

      What specifically do you like about her...?

      If you care to share... I'm very curious about this.



      July 16, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Dennis

      So, anyone who dislikes Bachmann or disagrees with you is a "libtard" and deserves to suffer? And you claim those you disagree with resort to "blind, unabashed hatred and vitriol" . . . wow.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • James R. Edwards


      July 16, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • BadTigz

      So......you plan to vote for a person based on who is against them as opposed to whether you feel they are a good candidate?

      I really hate to questions someones intelligence....but seriously?

      July 16, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • m

      Lee, how can you use libtard when you know both of the woman you support are raising, or helped to raise, mentally retarded children? How completely thoughtless.

      July 16, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • American pie

      Lee: You actually think she has a chance???!!! I am rolling on the floor laughing while at the same time concerned about the mentality of people like youself. Get real...This is AMERICA. Look at the stats.. We are STILL suffering through the effects of the Bush years. The Bush administration destroyed this country. What Bush did, by ignoring the domestic issues here in America for 8 years, is vibrating through this country with fierceness and will continue to ripple through America for many years to come. You cannot fix the damage they brought in 3 years. Although I know some people actually think these things can be fixed overnight...When an adminsitration ignores its people problems for many years, it takes twice as long to fix...hence the economic problems we are dealing with today and will for a few more years, it will take time...BUT the American people will come back stronger, better and with the knowledge that the fanatical right wingers are delusional, hate mongering, under-educated, albeit proud, SMALL group pf people that distort their shadow 10 times bigger than they actually are...The majority of America will never vote of someone so far to the right as Bachman or Palin...you know this...but I give you points for being proud...

      July 16, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Seattle Sue

      Lee, do you really think the "liberal press" retouches/alters all the videos showing what radical and crazy things Bachmann and Palin does? Do you think a conservative like Bachmann is right in taking monies for farm subsidies and that clinic taking money for praying peoples problems away. She and her husband Marcus have a nice little scam going to take money from the taxpayers.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Miamiman

      Lee... are YOU blind? The difference between Palin and Bachmann is Palin is a revengeful conniving quitter who mentally hasn't graduated past 9th grade with an "F" in history and Bachmann is a simple minded idiot who truly believes in her own little head world. If Bachmann can't tell her own husband is a flaming queen she needs a new pair of contact lenses minus the rose colored tint. She's a wide eyed Stepford trophy wife that takes advantage of "socialism" while bucking the idea at the same time. Palin is a joke and Bachmann is another freakish sideshow. Our temporary or continued economic suffering will fall squarely on the Bush administration's shoulders as they greedily created it and own it. Let's take a vote on that.

      July 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
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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.