August 30 05
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday, August 28, that his government would take legal action against Pat Robertson. That legal action may include extradition under international treaties. Chavez also said he may involve the United Nations if the Bush administration does not act. Why is Chavez so upset with Robertson, the television evangelist who hosts the 700 Club?
Chavez was elected in 1998 and became a close friend of Cuba's Fidel Castro. In 2000, Chavez was re-elected under a new constitution. In 2002, he was forced out of office under a coup that he accuses the U.S. of masterminding, but the coup was put down and Chavez regained power in a matter of days. Since then, Chavez has been saying that he believes the United States is trying to kill him.
Robertson appears to have broken U.S. law on Monday, August 22. On the 700 Club, which is broadcast to most of the U.S. and several foreign countries, Robertson called for the assassination of Chavez. Here, in part, is what Robertson said: "He [Chavez] has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent. I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it....We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."
Two days later, on Wednesday, August 24, Robertson made further remarks on the 700 Club, when he said, "I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping..."
There are a few reasons why Robertson's remarks are drawing the attention of the legal community. First, Robertson's call for the assassination of Chavez appears to violate Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 112(b), which states: "Whoever willfully -- (1)...threatens...a foreign official..., or (2) attempts to...threaten...a foreign official...shall be fined...or imprisoned not more than six months, or both." Second, Robertson's remarks appear to violate Section 875(c) of the same Code: "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both." In addition, assassinations of world leaders were outlawed in 1976 by executive order under President Gerald Ford.
It should be noted that Robertson does hold a law degree; in addition, he was a presidential candidate who knows the law concerning assassinations. What is most notable, of course, is that Pat Robertson is a well-known evangelical Christian who founded the Christian Coalition.
Robertson claimed he was "frustrated" with U.S. foreign policy in Central and South America and his remarks about assassination were borne out of that frustration. While Robertson's frustration may be understandable, his reactions are confusing. First, when asked by the media to clarify his remarks, he initially denied that he used the word "assassinate." The next day, however, he had to concede that he did indeed call for the assassination of Chavez. That is when he justified his position by stating that his remarks were made out of frustration. What cannot be overlooked, however, is his initial reaction to lie, or at least 'twist the truth.' Second, it is difficult to understand how frustration over political policies could make a Christian call for the murder of a man who obviously does not know Christ.
In the New Testament, in the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul calls for us to obey the laws of the land as long as they do not hinder our personal relationship with God: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves" (Romans 13:1-2). We may not like everything the government does -- we may not agree with U.S. foreign policy -- but we obey the laws because God tells us to.
Now let's back up a few verses in Romans and get the context:"Repay no one evil for evil... Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God's] wrath; for it is written, '"Vengeance is Mine, I will repay" says the Lord.' Therefore, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).
You see, we are called to love people. Our first reaction should be to preach the Gospel and give men a chance to repent. If Pat Robertson was really concerned about what Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela, he should have gone there in love and shared the Good News of Christ. We cannot expect ungodly men who are unconverted to the ways of Christ to behave in a Christ-like manner. And now the world is especially confused by a man who is supposedly converted by Christ but who behaves in a decidedly anti-Christian manner.