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Robertson Finds Success Means Increased Scrutiny : Iowa Finish Puts Focus on Church, State Views

February 14, 1988|LEE MAY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — At Pat Robertson's campaign headquarters in Chesapeake, Va., the telephones have barely stopped ringing since the Republican presidential candidate blasted past Vice President George Bush and into a second-place finish in last Monday's Iowa caucuses.

One minute it's London calling--a television producer wants to fly a campaign aide over for a talk show. The next minute, it's a radio talk show host in New Hampshire. Then, an impressed voter wants campaign literature.

Robertson and his supporters are riding high on the inevitable wave of increased attention after the Iowa success. The surge "has given us instant credibility," campaign spokesman Scott Hatch says, thumbing through a stack of telephone messages 5 inches high. "If we could have gotten a 747 jet into Dixville Notch, N. H., we could have filled it with reporters."

However, the new attention is also drawing renewed attention to many of Robertson's controversial views on religion and government. For example, People for the American Way, a group that monitors religion in politics, is launching a campaign to, as executive director Arthur Kropp put it, "nip (Robertson's success) in the bud."

Campaign officials acknowledge that Robertson's positions are certain to face intensified scrutiny. But top aide Kerry Moody said: "That's the price you pay for success. We're ready for it."

Key Topics Listed

Among the topics at issue:

--Government and God. In his 1984 book, "Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions," Robertson wrote: "Government was instituted by God to bring his laws to people and to carry out his will and purposes." He went on: "Perfect government comes from God and is controlled by God. Short of that, the next best government is a limited democracy in which the people acknowledge rights given by God but voluntarily grant government limited power to do those things the people cannot do individually."

In a 1985 broadcast on the "700 Club" show on his Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said that "individual Christians are the only ones really--and Jewish people, those who trust the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign (serve in government) because hopefully they will be governed by God and submitted to him."

--Robertson's ability to perform miracles. He has claimed to have turned a hurricane away with prayer. He was filmed telling the storm: "In the name of God, I command you" to veer north from Virginia. When the storm did turn, Robertson took credit.

--His claim that God frequently speaks to him. For example, he said his decision on whether to seek the Republican nomination was dependent on whether God would approve. He has quoted his conversations with God in his books and on the "700 Club."

Conversation Cited

In his book "Shout It From the Housetops," Robertson said, "God came to me while I was praying, and said 'Congress is going to pass a bill requiring all television sets to be equipped with UHF,' " a message of particular importance to him as a broadcaster.

He has also claimed to have spoken to Satan. Satan once told him "Jesus is playing you for a sucker," Robertson wrote. He replied that "Jesus is my Savior. Even in hell I'll praise him."

--Discussing the ills of "unbridled capitalism," Robertson noted that the Bible "contains a solution to the problem of excess accumulation of wealth and power. It is the year of Jubilee. Under Old Testament law, every 50 years there was a cancellation of all debts. . . . All the money was redistributed and the means of production was placed back in the hands of the original families. Personal property and city land that had been accumulated could be kept, but wealth resting on debt was canceled."

Robertson and his aides contend that his beliefs and statements as an evangelical minister have little or no bearing on his campaign for the presidency.

In ads before the Iowa caucuses, Robertson drew attention to charges John F. Kennedy faced in his 1960 presidential campaign that Kennedy was "an agent of the Pope." Kennedy faced a Protestant Ministerial Assn. in Houston that year and vowed to uphold the Constitution. "I've said the same thing," Robertson contends.

Reaffirms Strong Beliefs

Robertson does not deny that he still holds strong beliefs as an evangelical Christian. But in an interview with the New York Times, he said: "As President of the United States, I would have to administer that office, in a very dispassionate sense, in relation to all people."

He noted that his concept of a "limited democracy" was "a republic using the precepts of God, which is America . . . a confederation of states with representatives of every state coming together in a central government which is limited by the Constitution in terms of the reserved rights of the states and the reserved rights of the people."

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