The wall between church and state in the United States found itself a fierce opponent in Pat Robertson, the evangelical broadcaster who helped make religion an often powerful force in Republican politics.
Robertson, who died at age 93 on June 8, created the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), with its flagship show The 700 Club; campaigned to be the Republican presidential nominee in 1988; and was the force behind the Christian Coalition, the extremely influential grassroots political group backing conservative candidates.
According to an homage to Robertson on CBN.com, “His heart’s desire was that all people come to know Jesus.”
But he was undoubtedly a controversial figure. In a 1994 profile, Esquire described him as “a man of both extraordinary accomplishments and extraordinary contradictions.” While revered by his followers — who’ve filled his coffers to overflowing through the decades, at his repeated behest — he was viewed by others more skeptically for, among many other things, his focus on money. He followed the “prosperity gospel,” seeing wealth as a sign of God’s favor, and sometimes was perceived as callous toward the less fortunate.
He also made provocative statements — telling his 700 Club viewers, for example, that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer’s is justifiable because the disease is “a kind of death,” so a divorce doesn’t break the marriage vow to love “till death do us part.”
Pat Robertson grew up in Lexington, Virginia, with a politician father, U.S. Sen. A. Willis Robertson. His mother, Gladys, was deeply religious, and both his grandfathers were ministers. He attended a military prep school and Washington and Lee University in his hometown, then went on to Korea to serve with the Marines.
Robertson graduated from Yale Law School but left law after failing the New York bar exam.