State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt had a rough week. He made a mistake, he says, describing the attack on Michelle Wilkins – a woman seven-month-pregnant whose fetus was cut from her body – as an act of divine fury.
On his fire-and-brimstone television show “Pray in Jesus Name,” Klingenschmitt said: “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb, and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open.
Now, unsurprisingly, the press has ridiculed Klingenschmitt.
His fellow Republicans also condemned the statement and Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso kicked Klingenschmitt off the Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.
In the midst of chaos, Klingenschmitt spoke with The Colorado Independent about his comments on the attack, the Bible and his political future.
Tessa Cheek: So, news just broke that you were pulled from the health committee. I guess, just to start off, I wonder how you’re feeling about that?
Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt: Well, I’m sad. And listen, I’ve already apologized. And I apologize to anyone offended by my Sunday sermons. But I respectfully disagree with Leader DelGrosso. I think anytime you establish a government punishment for what somebody says in church – when you’re quoting the Bible from the pulpit – you’re setting a bad precedent. In fact, it may be a religious litmus test for what committee those representatives are allowed to sit on.
I was not punished for drunk driving. I was not arrested by the police. This is literally punishment for quoting unpopular Bible verses in church, in the pulpit; for disagreeing with Leader Del Grosso’s interpretation of those Bible verses. He says he didn’t like my message. OK. I’ve already apologized for my message. But now does this branch of the state government get to reach into my pulpit and establish a government consequence for that? I think he’s crossed a line, and I respectfully disagree with his decision.
I know the press has been tough this last week, in particular. But I’m more interested in your constituents’ response to this controversy. With you off the committee, in a sense, they’re off the committee. I wonder what you’re hearing from them, what it looks like, and what you want them to know.
I care deeply about every one of my constituents, whether they voted for me or not. I’m a passionate defender of their rights. It is their freedoms that are under attack, not my freedoms. This story is not about me. This story is about the larger questions of the rights of people like Baby Aurora Wilkins, a little girl who was killed, after seven months in the womb, by a horrific criminal.
“Does that baby have a right to life?” I say, “Yes.” “And does that baby have the right to justice if she is murdered but Colorado law does not charge her murderer with homicide?” I say, “That baby deserves justice.” If I am going to be disciplined for fighting for Baby Aurora’s right to justice, then I hope my constituents can see that I went down fighting for the principle.
Are there particular fixes you’d like to make in the legislature. Are there things you’d like to do here? What’s your next step?
I will continue to fight for freedom, for liberty. And I will continue to speak truth. I may not be a career politician. I didn’t come here to advance my own career. I certainly didn’t come here for the money or for the power. It’s not about that for me. I will continue to fight for Republican principles and conservative principles that are in our party platform.
There are some Republicans here — and almost all the Democrats — who don’t want to take a stand for pro-life principles, for traditional marriage, for religious freedom, for lower taxes, for less regulation, for Second Amendment rights. But I introduced all five bills that have to do with those core values of my district, and I have fought for those things, and I will continue to fight for those things, even until my last breath in this job. And whether the voters or the leadership decide they don’t want me fighting for those things, I will continue to do my best to stand up for those principles, even if it costs me my political career.
If you could go back, would you do the same thing or have made the same comments?
If I could go back to two weeks ago, of course I would do things differently. I’ve already issued a public apology on my campaign website. My words were not compassionate. The Bible says I should speak the truth in love, but I failed to show compassion for the victims of this horrific crime. Dan and Michelle Wilkins deserve better than what I said. I care about them, and I grieve with them. So, I have issued a public statement on my campaign website to that effect, and I hope that everybody who has been offended by my remarks will watch that apology, and I ask them to forgive me.
If you had to choose – and it seems like there is increasing pressure from GOP leadership and the press to do so – would you choose to be Dr. Chaps or Representative Klingenschmitt
That’s a really good question. I have struggled with this more each day. Two years ago, when I thought about running, that was the first question I asked. I called a lawyer, and I said, “Can I continue to preach the Gospel on Sundays and be a state representative Monday through Friday?” They said, “Yes. Legally, you can.”
So, I threw my hat in the ring, and I thought I would give it a try. What I’m realizing now, however, is that politically, it’s very difficult. In the Old Testament, they didn’t elect the prophets. They stoned the prophets. It would be nearly impossible for Ezekiel or Jeremiah or Isaiah to win an election. I’m not putting myself in their class, but they stood on principle, and they inspired me to speak the truth, even when it’s unpopular. I’ve done that for 16 years in my nonprofit preaching ministry.
Now, I’m coming to the point where I may have to choose: Do I continue preaching, or do I stop preaching and try to get re-elected. I don’t know what I’ll choose. I’d like to think that I’ll put God first. But I know my constituents deserve that I put them first. I want to do both, but I need their permission to continue. This is their seat, not my seat. And I respect their judgment.
I have just announced today that I’m taking a six-week sabbatical from my preaching ministry. I will stop my Sunday television shows until this legislative session adjourns on May 7, because I want to devote myself fully to the work of representing the people of my district, and I don’t want my Sunday ministry to overshadow the important work that my constituents deserve for me to do here. After May 7, I will resume my preaching ministry, and I will seek the advice of my key constituents concerning what I should do in the 2016 election cycle.