The Rev. Pat Robertson is drawing criticism from rabbis of all denominational stripes for suggesting that citizens of Pennsylvania’s Dover area no longer merit God’s protection because they voted out critics of evolution.
Robertson, who made his remarks during the November 10 broadcast of his daily show, “The 700 Club,” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, was upset that two days earlier the eight members of Dover’s school board — all Republicans — were voted out of office. The school board had drawn national attention and sparked a lawsuit by trying to introduce the Intelligent Design theory to the public high school curriculum.
“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God,” Robertson declared on his show. “You just rejected him from your city.”
Local religious Jewish leaders blasted Robertson immediately, including an Orthodox rabbi who supports the teaching of the controversial theory.
“I don’t do God’s judging, and I wouldn’t guess how God judges people,” said Rabbi Shaya Sackett of Congregation Degel Israel, an Orthodox synagogue in Lancaster, Pa. Sackett added that he believed intelligent design “could and should be taught, under certain conditions.”
“[Robertson] is an embarrassment to any thoughtful religious person,” said Rabbi Irwin Goldenberg of Temple Beth Israel, a Reform synagogue in York, Pa. Goldenberg opposes the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classes.
“Most religious people would recognize that there are many ways of understanding God,” he said, adding that “[Robertson’s] view of a punishing God directly contradicts both Jewish and Christian theologies of a caring, loving God.”
The controversy began in earnest in mid-December 2004, when 11 local parents, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, took the school board to federal court to contest its decision to mention Intelligent Design in the high school curriculum.
Adherents of Intelligent Design believe that certain features of the universe and of living beings are too complex to be explained by natural selection; they say that instead they are the result of an intelligent “designer.” Supporters of the Dover school board said they wanted to present other alternatives to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“What we’re doing is informing children that there are other theories,” said Edward Rowand, the pastor at Rohler’s Assembly of God Church in Dover.
Rowand declined to comment on Robertson’s statement.