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. Grumpy

    Leave your church, leave your country, leave the planet! Michelle, please just leave!

    August 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  2. demo joseph

    I guess GOD is not as important as running for office after all. Her christian views are applicable only when she is telling us we need to find GOD. I know Michelle will show us how to find GOD after all she made a pledge to us – Opps I forget, she broke her pledge to GOD – so I know where that leaves us. Well God your greatest fan has left your flock for the big lights of the political world. Can we all pray that she comes back. We (Americans) have to put up with that kind of fool – because this is a free country and that's ok by me. BUT plese ask her to move where they are allowed to beat women's like her when they show their a...s in public.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  3. /facepalm

    I hate the United States of Jesusland. Between Bachmann, the Teabaggers, and the DC40 crusade, we'll have mandatory state Christianity, church-run media, and intentionally falsified (I mean "fixed") educational materials in the next twenty years.

    August 3, 2011 at 6:30 am |
    • gozer

      Completely agree with you. I share your fears and sentiments. Let's work to get Bachmann and her evil ilk out of power and keep them out.

      August 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  4. Don

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

    OKAY! Whacky is as Whacky does! This is not a flattering close-up photo of Bachmann, is she aging rapidly before our eyes?

    August 2, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  5. BarryDingle

    She's startin' her own house o' worship: The Church of the Holy Whackadoodle, speshulizing in Prosperity Freakonomics. Look for it soon at a drive-in near you.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  6. The Tuna

    Who cares what this budding pseudo-Hitler wanna believes in order to justify her slash & burn economic/social policies. A dangerous, demagogic twit is a dangerous twit whatever invisible sky daddy they profess loyalty to.

    July 31, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • J Irving

      Love the term "sky daddy". So appropriate. 🙂

      August 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  7. mort

    She's trying to distance herself from something that could hurt her political career now that she is in the national public eye. Nothing more. She still believes all the foolishness – the Earth is only 4000 years old, the jesus thing, etc.

    July 28, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • AvdBerg

      By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that all the foundations of the earth out of course . For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com

      July 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  8. IndyNC

    “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"

    Bullsh!t. As a former Lutheran who has done much study on many religions, but particularly on Martin Luther, there is nothing to say he called the papacy the "anti-christ"

    he called into doubt papal infallibility and questioned many medieval Catholic practices, but he never equated the Pope or Catholicim as being Anti-Christ.

    In fact, usually Lutherans preach that the only unforgivable sin is unrepentance. At least that's what was taught in all the churches I've attended that where ELCA (Evengelical Lutheran Churches of America) or Missouri Synod.

    the only "news" here is

    1) "darling of conservative evangelicals" has not attended the church she was most recently associated with in over 2 years (suprise suprise...)

    2) While seeking the highest elected postion in the country she has pre-emptively sought to distance herself from people who have made statements that would reflect badly on her to voters (again.... suprise, suprise...)

    Typical actions of a politician.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  9. OKE

    who the hell cares where this idiot spends her sunday mornings?

    July 25, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  10. Nat

    Religion, religion, religion. For a country that prides itself on the separation of church and state you should all be ashamed of yourselves for lying. The U.S. obession with relgion in it's politicians is slowly destroying the country. The time and money wasted, not to mention lack of social progress, because of religion in the U.S. is a joke. Silly people.

    July 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Kevin


      July 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  11. Jan

    Do we want someone as President who hasn't yet figured out for sure what she believes in? Who has so recently changed her belief system? Changing religions is no small issue, I've done it, it's a life-changing event – what if she has another change of belief in another 2 years time? Do we know who we're getting?

    July 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  12. billsf

    I can't wait for her husband to come out of the closet!

    July 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • BarryDingle

      Never. He's too addicted to mothballs.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  13. Michael Mapus


    There is a reason why I called myself a bloat. You are correct, it does not state that in the Roman Catholic Catechism. They were stated in the Canons that came from the Council of Trent, which are still inforce. I watch EWTN from time to time, the Pope and most orthodox Catholic theologins, still consider these as correct dogma of the Vatican. As I stated, I watch some programing on EWTN for the fact, I can't stand most American Methobaticostal programming.

    “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 12).

    “If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24).

    July 22, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  14. C. Dasilva

    So there you have it. This is why she left her church of more than ten years. As we know, every politician out there knows that the Vatican is the ultimate career booster as long as you do as they ask. But if you're seeking an office as globally popular as the presidency, you cannot in any way be associated with those that expose the Popes as Antichrists. So rather than do the right thing and step out of the race, Michele Bachmann chose to step out of her church instead. This act proves politicians are very aware as to their duty to please the Popes. That being the case, can anyone still assume American politics are not controlled by Antichrist?

    July 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  15. Michael Mapus

    Hey CNN, why don't you do a show on the Roman Catholic Catechism that states: "all those that believe in Justification by Faith Alone, let them be anethema (cursed to hell)! How many Evangelical, non-demoninational churches believe that Catholics are not even christians. We Lutherans, while up holding that the Office of the Papacy is the Anti-Christ, believe many Catholics are still Christians. This is plainly stated in our doctrinal statements. It's a shame that a bloat like myself has to do your journalism for you.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Vince Trevino

      Part Three, Chapter 3, Article 2 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses Justification and Grace. You will not find the harsh judgement you say our catechism makes. Also, when John wrote about the Anti-Christ neither the Catholic Church nor the office of the Pope exist. I am a Catholic Christian who believes you have a right to worship God in a church of your choice and I have no right to judge you. I am, however, troubled by what you say about us and by how authoritatively you state it. Please take a few minutes of your time to read the part of our catechism I have quoted here and you will find that we judge no one.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  16. Andrew Owen

    "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."

    Would that were the case! He was held personally responsible for the views of Jeremiah Wright and for Bill Ayers and for his wife and parents.

    July 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • keith

      Oprah had realized that it was a racist church within one week , and then left . Just saying .

      July 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • PhillyJimi

      Wow I am a Catholic so I must be responsible for the gay pedophile priest? It took me 40 years to leave the church. Still waiting on judgment from the all powerful and all knowing Oprah, maybe she'll decide it wasn't my fault...just saying...

      July 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  17. Reality

    What BO can do to at least lift part of the Immoral Majority leader label?

    He says abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO's sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he says he is a Christian. And where is his sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 8.7% as per the Gu-ttmacher Inst-itute statistics. Using these and other Gu-ttmacher Insti-tute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.

    And do males use co-ndoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth "control" method is 17.4%!! Again using Gu-ttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    The Gu-ttmacher Insti-tute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

    Bottom line: BO is still not aware of the basics of birth control and still remains the leader of the Immoral Majority and will remain so until he becomes a true Christian and one who respects and protects human life in all its forms and who at least emphasizes the proper use of birth control methods!!!


    July 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • keith

      If he doesn't use a condom correctly , it is her right to make him , or say no .

      July 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • The Woof

      You speak of all this statics and the failure of man made devices and then have the hypocracy of stating. "Thou shalt not kill".
      If you truly are a Christian then why did you overlook the fact that fornication is the sin that lead up to abortion. Before you chastise one individual on his views, or put another way, before you comment on the sty in your brother's eye first remove your own. Start with the do not fornicate as it is a sin.

      July 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm |

      Let me get you logic straight– If we can get a Christian Evangelical in the White House, we can then ban all abortion and have exclusive abstinence training. Or is it your silly notion that birth control is less than 2% margin of error. Sounds like people are not taking the pill like they are suppose to or guys are just slipping the condoms off mid-coitus. I've been using condoms for 20 years, even as an unmarried teenager mind you; not one woman pregnant. Settle this for you religious types once and for all. FACT: if a woman does not get pregnant; she cannot get an abortion. To get even further, she can have a life, go college, move away from backwards town, maybe even settle down with someone she loves and then have a child. Final Point– you will never make abortion illegal– it is never going to happen. So instead of making other people's lives miserable by forcing them to have children they don't want have or carry; just go be miserable all by your lonesome. It is simple– your so-called morality is not shared by everyone.

      July 20, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • PhillyJimi

      Who said killing is wrong? We kill prisoners on death row. We kill enemy soliders. If someone tries to kill me I'll try to kill them, isn't that justified. There are all kinds of moral problems, would you kill one person to save 100?

      Even the holy bible is filled with many tales of genocide. How many innocent children did god kill in the flood? What is the % of natural abortions? Who endorsed and is responsible for these natural abortions? Who do we charge with murder for natural abortions the mothers, or god? Someone made a choice to abort the child, the mother or it act of nature. If it is an act of nature then who is ultimately responsible for acts of nature? Why does the big G always get credit for anything good but never the blame for any thing bad? And if the Devil is causing all the problems the big sky daddy should just kill him. The big sky daddy hasn't been shy about killing in the past. If there is a big sky daddy he sure seems to be rather stupid or on vacation if you ask me. But if you want someone else view just put a few dollars on the plate that gets passed around on Sunday and I am sure you'll hear plenty of creative excuses.

      I admit that I don't have all the answers and I know when ever anyone plays around with absolutes there are always exceptions that will bite them in the rump. Abortion is very complex. Your personal religious beliefs can and should direct your life. My personal beliefs also direct my life. Why do your beliefs get to over-ride mine? It seems you should look into moving to a country where theocracies rule and personal rights are for the fools of the west. Their sky daddy promises the same things every other sky daddy promises.

      I also find it ironic that most of these same people who don't want to abort any precious babies are usually the first ones to cry about paying for social programs needed to feed these hungry mouths. They are also defenders of human life but are usually very pro death penalty. They're about as consistent as the weather.

      Also what makes you think the FTC & the FDA would allow birth control companies to state that the pill is 99.9% effective if it actually wasn't? What kind of "ignore the facts and truth but twist reality to my point of view" world do some people live in?

      July 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Just Sayin


      July 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Otis Galloway (@DJO2is)

      If being a Christian means thinking like you, then consider me an atheist.

      July 25, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Hugh

      What a lot of people fail to understand about the bible is that it is not translated literally. Most churches, including my own, use the King James version (translation) of the bible, which interpreted the scripture in it's own way. The ACTUAL and LITERAL translation of the verse "thou shall not kill" from Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17 in the King James version of the bible is "thou shall not commit Murder." The translation from Hebrew to Old English was not correct. This is fact, not just my opinion. I used to be an active Christian until I confronted church authorities about this after reading the full literal translation of the Hebrew version. I felt that they were aware of this serious discrepancy, but refused to change their teachings.

      July 29, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  18. bearington

    I am surprised that you officially resign from the Lutheran church and it has to be accepted.

    When I wanted to leave a church I just stopped going.

    July 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • The Woof

      Actually you are still on that church's membership roll. But I have never really understood that concept except for a headcount and a possible donation avenue.

      July 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  19. keith

    Was obama kicked out of that racist church yet ?

    July 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Just Sayin

      1 question. Did Rev Wright lie?

      July 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  20. wormfood

    By calling the United States of America simply America or saying for example American Hero. You are showing how completely stupid, ignorant, and arrogant you really are.
    The United States is part of America, which is comprised of three parts, North America, Central America, and South America.
    Everyone citizen living on the American continent is American.
    Remember it is the United States "of" America. You are a citizen of the United States. America is a continent not a country.

    July 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • dinkster

      So hyperbolic beyond words... Canadian's call themselves just that. As do Mexican's. In South America, they call it América. I don't know about Central America, but who cares. The working English Language for this country recognizes the word American as typically a citizen of USA. Don't make something out of nothing. Shall we say United Statesian? Please.

      July 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • keith

      I love AMERICA !!!

      July 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • bearington

      Says who?

      I have a news flash for you worm. There is no continent of "America." There is North America and South America but no America. I guess that makes you ignorant as well as arrogant.

      July 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • jorge

      try telling that to the general (so called ) american,then too the lable of american is stuck to only whites,every orther so called race bare some atachment,african american asian american even the people that occupied the land before whites got here there is an atachement, american indians,to white people america stop at the borders at mexico and canada and the only true americans are white white people

      July 20, 2011 at 7:15 am |
    • PhillyJimi

      Wormfood, are you serious how much more of a bore can you be? If you live in the USA and you call yourself an American everyone knows what you mean. If it was 1675 it might mean a different thing. You might want to actually look in a dictionary, you'll be amazed there is usually more then 1 meaning for a word. Yes it is confusing and English must not be your first language so we'll cut to some slack. Once you understand there can be more then 1 meaning for word, you find it can be very useful in creating funny humorous situations. Please feel free to develop a sense of humor it helps you relax and get along with your fellow man. Peace.

      July 20, 2011 at 2:14 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.