Nikki Haley kicks off campaign with hate pastor & calls for harsher anti-LGBTQ+ policy

John Hagee
John Hagee Photo: YouTube screenshot

Former Trump administration official and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) kicked off the first rally for her new presidential campaign on Wednesday in South Carolina with an invocation by John Hagee, an evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination ordinances. Hagee has also said that the Antichrist is gay, that God sent Hitler to push Jews into Israel, and that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for holding a Pride parade.

The following day, while speaking at an Exeter, New Hampshire town hall, Haley said of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law “I don’t think [it] goes far enough.” While the law bans Kindergarten through third-grade teachers from discussing subjects related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which some say includes even mentioning LGBTQ+ people, a teacher’s same-sex partner, or a student’s LGBTQ+ parents, she compared such acknowledgment to sexual education.

At her South Carolina kickoff rally, Haley said “Pastor Hagee, I still say I want to be you when I grow up,” after he finished his invocation. The line was met with scant applause from the audience. When she served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, she spoke to Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, at its annual summit. Hagee also presented her with an award for her support of Israel.

In a September 2022 tweet, Hagee wrote, “The only marriages God will ever recognize is between a man and a woman.”

In 2013, Hagee publicly opposed an anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination ordinance proposed for San Antonio, Texas. He later voiced support for it after he felt assured that it wouldn’t allow religious leaders to be persecuted for discrimination.

In a September 16, 2006 interview, Hagee said that Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana city because “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God.” The hurricane killed nearly 1,400 people and caused billions in damage.

“There was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came,” he said, “and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay Pride parades. The Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment. And I believe that Hurricane Katrina was indeed the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”

He later backtracked on his comments after they received greater scrutiny following his February 2008 endorsement of then-presidential candidate John McCain. On April 25, 2008, Hagee’s publicist issued a statement that quoted him as saying, “Ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise.”

Nevertheless, McCain rejected Hagee’s endorsement, calling these and other comments “deeply offensive and indefensible.” The same day that McCain condemned Hagee’s comments, the pastor formally withdrew his endorsement, stating, “I am tired of these baseless attacks and fear that they have become a distraction in what should be a national debate about important issues.”

But Hagee’s hurricane comment is just the iceberg tip of his offensive statements.

In 2003, he said that the Antichrist, the Biblical figure who will destroy the world, will be gay and half-Jewish. He once called same-sex marriage “two disturbed people playing house,” He also called for a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, and in 2005 he said same-sex marriage “will open the door to incest, to polygamy, and every conceivable marriage arrangement demented minds can possibly conceive.”

“If God does not then punish America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah,” he added, referencing two Biblical towns that, according to evangelicals, God destroyed due to sexual immorality.

In 2005, Hagee said, ”Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

Hagee has called The Catholic Church “the great whore,” the “Antichrist,” and a “false cult system;” and said God sent Adolf Hitler to drive Jews into Israel, suggesting that Jewish “disobedience” of God “gave rise” to their persecution under the Nazis and other antisemites, U.S. News reported. Hagee also endorsed racist segregationist George Wallace for president in 1968.

Haley has opposed government recognition of legally married same-sex couples, transgender participation in sports, and LGBTQ+ content in public schools.

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