- TV preacher Pat Robertson has repeatedly criticized the
Bush administration over its handling of the crisis in Liberia ñ
without once mentioning his own personal business interests in the country.
- In recent days, Robertson has used his nationally broadcast
television show to charge that the U.S. government has sought to destabilize
Liberia and oust President Charles Taylor. Although Taylor is a brutal
dictator under indictment for war crimes by the United Nations, he is a
business partner of Robertson.
- ìTaylor is one of the most brutal dictators in
Africa, and it is appalling to me that Robertson would enter into a partnership
with him merely to make money,î said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive
director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. ìNow
Robertson is using his tax-exempt Christian broadcast ministry to lobby
the U.S. government to keep his crony in power. This is astounding.î
- On his June 26 ì700 Clubî program, Robertson
said, ìThis country [Liberia] has had a close relationship with
the United States over the years, but of late, the last, oh, four, five,
six years, the United States State Department has tried as hard as it can
to destabilize Liberia and to bring about the very outcome weíre
seeing now. They had no endgame, they have no plan of what to do, they
only wanted to destroy the sitting president and his government, and as
a result, the place is being plunged into chaos.î
- On July 1, Robertson returned to the issue, telling his
audience that a year ago he wrote to the undersecretary of state for African
affairs warning him that ìif we continued to undermine the regime
of the sitting president of Liberia that there was going to be chaos, and
I said to him then, ëyou have no endgame.í Well, they havenít
had an endgame, all theyíve wanted to do is destroy the government
of Liberia, which they have succeeded in doing.î
- Robertson, who founded the Christian Coalition, also
asserted that the U.S. has turned a blind eye to efforts by Islamic extremists
funded by Saudi Arabia to overthrow ìChristianî governments
in Africa. During a July 7 rant, Robertson asserted that the United States
has no business forcing the ìduly electedî Taylor, whom he
described as ìa Christian, Baptist president,î from power.
(In fact, Taylor seized power by force in 1989 and was elected president
in 1997 in what some observers charged was a fraudulent election.)
- During his repeated TV tirades, Robertson never mentioned
his primary reason for wanting Taylor to remain in power: The two men are
partners in a gold-mining venture. In 1999, a Robertson-owned company,
Freedom Gold, entered into an arrangement with Taylorís regime to
look for gold in southern Liberia. If gold is found, Taylorís government
will receive royalties from Robertson. That arrangement will collapse if
Taylor is forced out.
- Last year, Robertsonís Christian Broadcasting
Network aired portions of a Robertson-backed ìLiberia for Jesusî
rally, during which Taylor officially proclaimed the country a Christian
nation. Taylor took the action even though most Liberians are not Christians.
(An estimated 45 percent of Liberians follow indigenous religions. Christians
account for 38 percent, and the rest are Muslims.)
- AUís Lynn noted that Taylorís claims to
be a Christian havenít improved his behavior. The UN indictment
accuses Taylor of backing a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. News
media sources say the conflict has left more than 200,000 civilians dead
and countless others injured or mutilated.
- Taylor has also been accused of forcing children to fight
in the Liberian army and of enriching himself at the expense of his impoverished
nation. His record on human rights is so bad that he is barred from visiting
the United States, a ban Robertson has tried unsuccessfully to persuade
the State Department to lift.
- Lynn said he finds it telling that Robertson has not
mentioned his business interests in Liberia.
- ìRobertson would have his viewers believe that
his interest in Liberia is purely humanitarian,î said Lynn. ìIn
fact, heís became partners with a dictator in the hopes of making
money, and now he needs to prop that man up no matter what. Robertson ought
to be ashamed of himself.î
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State is
a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in
1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state
separation in safeguarding religious freedom.