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)
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    September 13, 2012 at 7:50 am |
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    July 30, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  4. Francisco

    Being forced to adopt Christian worhisp is a concern when a politician like Michele Bachmann uses her religion as a political tool in the way that Bachmann does. Having the religious leaders of Christian churches endorse her is a concern because those churches are tax exempt organizations, that, like other tax-exempt organizations, achieve their exemption from taxes by agreeing not to engage in campaign politics. Yet, here they are, doing just that and breaking the law.If I were a Christian, I would be offended that Michele Bachmann is willing to twist Christian churches into becoming arms of the political operation to extend her own presidential ambitions.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
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    July 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  7. thets

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    June 29, 2012 at 6:24 am |
  8. Beatriz

    Yeah, it was a cheap shot, Ahab; and a very strategic and well-thought out one I'm sure. However, I'm not pesdaured it's as big of an issue as people are making it out to be. Her crazy look which is her own and not doctored fits her crazy politics. Leave it to the RR to blame the liberal media for being on the witch hunt against conservative women. Bachmann isn't merely conservative. She's dangerous and stupid (not pc, I know, but it's both true and evident).I'm more concerned with the fact that she's supposedly galvanizing the voters in Iowa and elsewhere, as well as her positions on various issues, than with the widespread publication of an unflattering picture that she was obviously posing for.I don't get the outrage.St.ain't I agree. Newsweek should demonstrate that it is an equal opportunity publication in the sense that all of its cover shots truly represent the candidates not at their most photogenic, but as they truly are. Why not? They would be much more interesting and perhaps informative. Damn liberal media!

    June 29, 2012 at 3:30 am |
  9. Rafael

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    June 27, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  10. Kym

    After reading the ctemmnos that came after me I feel I need to make known that I wholeheartedly agree that the responsibility to keep kids in Church lies with the parents. I thought that the question was about what the Church should do, and I just didn't delve into the rest of it. However, we have to remember that not every child that is in Church, or even a member of a Church, has Christian parents or even parents that go to Church. That is where the Church has to make this child feel comfortable and wanted in a situation that is already probably difficult for them:)

    June 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  11. Zaman

    Too bad there wasn't any pictures of the girl in the bacnorgukd she was the hottest costume, hottest legs just the best of everything all around! She was a firegirl! smokin hot! sorry dear i didnt mean to rain all over your picture youre cute too!

    June 26, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  12. Wesley Mcgranor

    What a faker she is, and what a promiscuis society we have against those that oppose in actual faith. You hear a lot about moderates and extremism/radicals, when it comes to faith–especially when criticizing Mohammedans that affirm a faith that differs from others.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  13. Ken Symes

    Instead of supporting "Michele Bachmann for President," I'm supporting "Michele Bachmann for Pastor." If you want to find out why, here's my article:
    Michele Bachmann for Pastor by Ken Symes

    August 23, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Ken Symes

      Sorry the link didn't work above, so here it is:

      August 23, 2011 at 4:08 am |
  14. EuphioTGank

    that's very Obama of her

    August 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  15. Truth Teller

    @ steve19
    You say theres no way to know which day is the 7th day. Well if Sunday is the 1st day wouldn,t Saturday be the 7th?

    Jesus did say the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.
    That means it wasn't made for just jews. Made for man means its unlimited. ( everyone)

    We are all free to choose. The christian world has made void the Law of God.

    Professed christians are running around saying " I'm saved I'm Saved " I got news for them. There going to die cause they were deceived by their deceived culture catering pastors who taught them cheap grace.

    Professed Christians say they love Jesus. They don't aparently love Him enough to keep His comandments.
    Keeping Gods comandments isn't legalism. Its rightousness by faith. Its a love responce.

    The only people to be saved are those that are obedient. " Blessed are they that keep His comandments, for they will have the right to the tree of life " Rev. 22:14 There are three hundred similar scriptures like this and people still don't get it.

    They got to hear it from their pastor. Gods Word isn't enough !

    August 14, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • Fact Teller

      @Truther Your argument is very logical. Unfortunately, all that logic is based on a book of fictional fairy tales. The world took billions of years to form. Not 7 days. That said, I will admit that 7 days makes for a much better work week than the alternative....

      October 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  16. CheeseSteak

    10 Things overheard in Bachmann's Evangelical Christian Church

    1. Jesus loves you, but I think you're an A& &hole
    2. Pass the plate, I have to go out and feed the meter
    3. Does Pastor Clevus know there's hole in the back of his frock?
    4. Thank God I put Beano on that donut this morning.
    5. My God, it's full of stars
    6. If wanted to stand up and sit down every 30 seconds, I'd have gone to a Catholic church
    7. I'm not wearing any underwear
    8. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...sure, put me in for a dozen, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...
    9. I can't understand a word you said Martha, stop speaking in tongues
    10. Wow, that was the best church &ex I ever had

    And, here's what I've learned from CNN Belief Blog.

    1. We're all spending too much time on Belief Blog
    2. X-Ray specs really don't let you see though women's clothing
    3. Belief Blog goes great with Genessee Cream Ale
    4. God is doG spelled backward
    5. Jesus wasn't a Puerto Rican
    6. Don't rub another man's Rubarb
    7. I am your father Luke
    8. Praying is the leading cause of knee replacement surgery
    9. The Rubiks cube is an instrument of the Devil
    10. The Bible is a cookbook.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Fact Teller

      Heh it could be worse. I still remember a few years back when CNN had a full-time "Faith and Values Correspondent" on staff. Now THAT was annoying.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  17. SurRy

    It is 2011 and we are still having arguments, discussions and wars about fables and fairy tales. What a backward bunch.

    August 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Budi

      WWF copycats. This is the eanbslishmett's way of telling us to give up. The eanbslishmettarians and antidisestablishmentarians believe that they are playing us. But I believe that they are playing with fire. I think I am not alone. Read Wretchard's latest: .No response to me is necessary.

      June 27, 2012 at 6:22 am |
  18. jdunc

    I'm sorry we have to have a presidential candidate who must profess allegiance to certain religious values and the idea of a god. I'm more interested in the good will people have towards each other and our planet than in their religious beliefs which are often based on archaic, ancient understandings about mankind and some sort of afterlife. Lets first ask each candidate if they believe in science and technology and if they understand how this planet evolved and how it must be treated to continue to be our home. That's the candidate I want.

    August 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Truth Teller

      You think we evolved.

      Now thats a fairy tale.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • Fact Teller

      @Truther No, that's science. Evolution has been repeatedly proven. Biblical dogma, on the other hand....

      If you believe that Evolution is a myth, then I guess you also think that the flu virus is a myth as well, not to mention any number of bacterial infections. Grab a microscope sometime and you'll be able to see Evolution take place right before your very eyes.

      October 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Truth Teller

    Smart move leaving that church.

    Now she should go to the church that preaches the truth. The Seventh Day Adventist.

    I did, and now I understand the book of Rev. and can see for myself that the pope is the anti christ. No doubt whatsoever.

    The only thing though is you need the popes approval to get elected here. Sounds crazy I know, but theres a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on. and what do you know, there is a false Sabbath and a real Sabbath.

    Just ask your Bible on that one to. The Bible does warn that all the world will be deceived. Thats just what we have here.

    Well folks, I'm going to enter in at the straight gait. I am looking forward to worship this Saturday. Dont believe the lies of your Sunday pastor. ( Mat. warns of many false teachers). Everybody thinks their not deceived. Its someone else.

    The crowd cant be wrong. Can they ?

    August 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Gina Thomas

      Thank you for the truth. I worship on the true sabbath myself and it is liberating after being lied to for many years, God delivered me into His righteousness. Many will be deceived.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • steve19

      I'm happy that you have found a church that you enjoy, but I hope you realize that the calendar has been changed a number of times in human history, and there is no way to know what day the original Sabbath was. For all we know, it could be Wednesday. Remember, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It was intended as a time of rest and reflection and focus on God. Focus on why God told us to remember the Sabbath. Don't miss the forest for the trees by getting hung up on a particular day.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • James

      The crowd can't be wrong? Is this an inside 'SDA' comment or merely a strength in numbers reference? If so the Catholics are right because more than half of the world's Christians are of 'Rome'. I never understood Seventh Day doctrine, you keep a Saturday Sabbath and only eat Old Testament approved 'clean' foods, but if your son gets out of line you don't drag him to the town gates and have him stoned to death. What's up with that? I guess you can just pick and choose which commandments/laws you still obey and which you don't, must be nice.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Now she should leave the country. And take those flaming turds Palin and Perry with her

      August 14, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Fact Teller

      @Truther Actually, that's a Biblical misprint. The Sabbath actually occurs on the 17th day of ever odd-numbered month; unless there was a lunar eclipse the preceding month, in which case the Sabbath day shall be determined using a fractal algorithm derived from measuring a sacrificial goat's dingaling.

      The publishing company felt that was too complicated, so they just changed it to 7. Jesus got ticked and fired them. But before he could find a new publisher, the Romans messed him up and he died. He tried to submit a revision after he was resurrected, but the courts determined that holy ghosts cannot retain the copyrights held in their previous lives.

      October 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Johan

      As with most of the previous coernmtems, we did not allow C to partake until she had made a profession of faith as we believe communion is connected to being a part of the Body of Christ. However, we did make every effort before she was able to partake to explain exactly what was going on and use it as an opportunity to teach her. I generally sat in the back of the church with her so I could whisper my explanations.

      July 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  20. Tea Party News

    Michele Bachmann, having recently left her church in the rearview mirror, is said now to be converting to Islam.

    Bachmann is also leaving her latent-gay, flaccid husband Marcuth so that she can be free to pursue musician Yousef Islam (Cat Stevens). Bachmann is guoted as saying "I've always liked his music. You know what they say about musical men and their trombones..." and "As a Muslim and POuTUS, I could solve our terrorism problems once and for all. There's no way Al Kaida and his countrymen will attack a country with a Muslim leader. This will help me get elected in other ways too. In fact, it might be the only way I can get more than the teabagger vote and pull in anything from Obama's liberal base."

    Yousef Islam (Stevens) was heard to say "No way, dude, no friggin way. That leathery old haggis wouldn't have made it as my groupie even when she was 20, no matter how good her oratory skills are."

    August 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • CheeseSteak

      Besides, Yousef is saving himself for those 71 virgins

      August 14, 2011 at 12:20 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.