After the Jeremiah Wright scandal back in 2008, it’s understandable why current political candidates are wary of associating themselves with churches with radical views. This is perhaps why Michele Bachmann officially ended her 10-year membership with Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, just before she formally announced her candidacy, lest she be implicated in its anti-Catholic rhetoric.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), to which Salem Lutheran belongs, is the most conservative of the major Lutheran organizations. It adheres strictly to the writings of Martin Luther, including his assertions that the Catholic Church was the Antichrist. According to the WELS “Doctrinal Statement on the Antichrist,”
“Since Scripture teaches that the Antichrist would be revealed and gives the marks by which the Antichrist is to be recognized, and since this prophecy has been clearly fulfilled in the history and development of the Roman Papacy, it is Scripture which reveals that the Papacy is the Antichrist.”
One has to wonder what the WELS position is on Judaism, since Martin Luther was, infamously, the author of a slim book called “On the Jews and Their Lies” – a wholly indefensible work if there ever was one. The fact that the organization’s anti-Catholicism is spelled out on its website, however, was polemical enough that Bachmann, who has been questioned about her church’s views for years, felt the need to officially sever her ties.
The Catholic League defended Bachmann, saying, “We find no evidence of any bigotry on the part of Rep. Michele Bachmann.” Catholic League President Bill Donohue added that it was “regrettable that there are still strains of anti-Catholicism in some Protestant circles.”
According to Bachmann’s press office, she has been distancing herself from Salem Lutheran for several years, even going so far as to attend another church. But the choice to formally renounce her membership was clearly politically calculated, although it may backfire among voters who support Bachmann because of her often-professed religious convictions. It’s disturbing, though, that it was not until the launch of her presidential campaign that Bachmann realized that belonging to a church which endorsed prejudice against another religion was not acceptable.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.