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Rev. Pat Robertson Encourages Members To Pray For Supreme Court Justices To Retire

Aired July 16, 2003 - 20:35   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to move along now. The Reverend Pat Robertson has found himself to be the center of controversy lately because of some statements about the U.S. Supreme Court he first made on his Web site. We are going to quote for you now directly from the Web site where he said, "One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition. Would it not be possible for God to put it in the minds of these three judges that the time has come to retire?" Reverend Robertson is calling it a prayer offensive. He joins me from Virginia Beach tonight. Always god see you, sir. Welcome.
REV. PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGALIST: Thanks, Paula. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: First off, can you clarify for us or confirm who you were talking about? Were you talking about Justices, Stephens, Ginsburg and O'Connor?

ROBERTSON: Well that's correct. These are three people, one's 83 years old, he's been there for an awful long time and I think our people are just so tired of this particular accord. I think they feel it's gotten out of control and we didn't know who else to appeal to, so we're appealing to the judge of all the Earth to see if there might not be some correction.

ZAHN: Are you asking your followers to pray for these justices to get sicker?

ROBERTSON: Oh, of course not. When somebody's 83, it's time to retire and all we're asking is that they do. You know, the president, for example can only serve two terms. He serves eight years and he's out. The Governor of Virginia serves four years and he's out. Our Congressmen, many of them, have term-limited themselves to three terms. The Supreme Court, this particular court, has been in session together longer than any court since I think 18 -- the 1820s. So it's time to see that changed.

ZAHN: Reverend Robertson, you're a student of history and you have to concede here that the Constitution guarantees a lifetime term, does it not?

ROBERTSON: Well, it says they serve for good behavior and everybody has assumed that is for life. There's no question the Constitution gives it to them, but it doesn't mean they have to stay there. Lewis Powell, the distinguished justice from the state of Virginia who was a very prominent and good intelligence has retired. Thurgood Marshal has retired. Other justices have retire. And I don't see why some of these people can't retire and I'd like to see some fresh blood come in there and primarily conservative judges.

ZAHN: But historically hasn't it been true that when these justices retire it's usually because of ill health.

ROBERTSON: Not necessarily. I think Lewis Powell was in good health, he just decided it was time to get on with it. I believe that, you know, in corporations, many people have mandatory retirements at 65 or 70. I know we don't have that on the court, but nevertheless there comes a time.

But there's something more profound in this. This particular court, in my opinion, has turned the Constitution on its ear. It started way back in the 60's and we have had assault after assault after assault on religious values, on other things, and this recent decision, in my opinion, is shocking. It was so broad based and it was based on some of these so-called panumbers (ph) that doesn't exist in the 14th amendment about the right of privacy and just think, Paula, we've slaughtered something in the neighborhood of 43 million unborn babies because of Roe versus Wade.

And I think the American people are tired of this. They want conservative judges.

ZAHN: But Reverend Robertson, do you understand why some people are offended, even though you're saying you're not telling your followers to pray for ill health for these three justices, that they could actually interpret it that way.

ROBERTSON: Well they can interpret it any way they want to. I'm talking to God, and it's up to Him to make a decision and if some of these folks don't like what I'm praying for and want to pray the other way, have at it? Let the Lord decide.

ZAHN: I have been interviewing you now for a couple of decades and I don't want you to take this question disrespectfully, but would it be in your judgment and your definition of prayer equally appropriate for you to pray for a change in the constitution that wouldn't allow for a life term sentences on the bench?

ROBERTSON: The possibility of getting a Constitutional Amendment of that magnitude through both houses of Congress on a two-thirds vote and then through three quarters of the state legislatures is virtually impossible. I can't understand it.

Whereas you're looking -- Paula, the problem is you have five unelected people who are determining what the Constitution is, how it affects all of us, and these people aren't elected. They're accountable to nobody and I'm just saying there needs to be some accountability, that's all.

I've tried constitutional amendments, by the way. We pushed one, big time, back in about 1982. And I had Jim Wright on board and I had Bob Byrd on board and I had the Democrats on board, and there were six Republicans that axed it in the Senate. We had the House of Representative going for the amendment. This had to do with prayer in the schools.

ZAHN: Just a final answer for you and I don't mean this in a rude way at all...


ZAHN: No, but when you're talking about prayer, I mean, have you ever and once again, because people have a different interpretation of what's appropriate for prayer and what's not and have you ever prayed for that constitutional amendment who talked about your reality of getting this through Congress is nil. Have you ever prayed for that change?

ROBERTSON: Listen, we prayed, we worked, we lobbied, we did everything we could possibly do and six Republicans blocked it because they said, if these religious people get their way on this one, they'll keep coming back for more. And it was a heartbreaking thing that took place, and as I say, 1982, so I'm at this a long time.

But Paula, I prayed for the downfall of the Soviet Union. I thought that Communism, the tyranny of Communism, was an abomination and I beseeched God to bring that terrible evil down and he did. It was a great triumph, it took a while, but it happened.

ZAHN: Well you got yourself back in the papers was news again today, Reverend.

ROBERTSON: I wasn't trying to do that.

ZAHN: Oh, you never try, do you?

ROBERTSON: No, I never try.

ZAHN: Well, I'm glad to see you looking so healthy. I know you had a cancer scare there and we hope your health is well.

ROBERTSON: I had plastic surgery and I recovered from it cancer- free and I am very pleased to report that.

ZAHN: Good. Thank you so much for dropping by. I really appreciate you joining us.


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