Even by the nut case standard of the assorted pack of neo-Nazi unreconstructed Klan members, Aryan Nation haters, and the legion of loose screw religious cranks and loonies, the Reverend Wiley S. Drake's public prayer for the death of President Obama stretched far past the outer limit of credulity. The unrepentant Drake did not back away from the prayer when asked about it by Alan Colmes on Fox News Radio on June 2. He pleaded that he didn't understand why people were upset with his comments.
Drake is not just a garden variety religious crank. In 2006, he reigned as the second vice president of the nearly 20 million strong Southern Baptist Convention. The group is by far the nation's biggest evangelical denomination. He pastors a bonafide church, the First Southern Baptist Church in the middle-class bedroom city of Buena Park, California. Drake has his own popular radio show on the Crusade Radio Network. In April, Southern Baptist Convention spokesperson Richard Land even had kind words for Obama for his family values emphasis.
Convention officials, though, were far less forthright about Wiley's death prayer death for Obama. It issued a perfunctory statement saying that his views were his and his alone. It did not vigorously denounce those views, especially his Obama death prayer.
Wiley skirted the legal definition of what constitutes a threat to the president by attributing the death prayer to a phony, made up prayer from God. The operative term is willful in the federal statute that makes it an offense to threaten the president. It's punishable by up to five years in prison. Every year, the Secret Service investigates about 1500 reported or discovered threats to the president. Drake's God attribute threat didn't escape their attention.
But Drake doesn't just speak for Drake, and a handful of cranks, but says what more than a few ultra conservative, religious fundamentalists actually think and belief, and in their scariest and darkest moments the violence they actually wish for. With the murder of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, the Holocaust Museum shoot-up, the recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on a surge in hate groups, and the demand by a worried US Attorney General Eric Holder for a tougher hate law, death threats against public figures can't be shrugged off.
This writer, however, couldn't let Drake's purported death prayer on Obama lightly pass. So I had a little talk with him mostly to give him another chance to back off his prayer.
Here's an excerpt from the June 19 talk with Drake:
"Did you actually pray for President Obama's death?"
"No, I was merely citing an imprecatory prayer which in scripture is a prayer mandated by God to smite down the enemies....those that do evil."
"So you're saying that you did not actually call for Obama's death?"
"I was asked in an interview about the murder of Kansas doctor George Tiller and I said in an imprecatory prayer that Tiller who was responsible for the murder of thousands of children was given a chance at salvation and that didn't happen so he was condemned in prayer to die. I had no regrets about his death. I was then asked if the imprecatory prayer for the death of evil doers could even extend to the president. I said yes. I was merely citing a prayer."
"Do you stand by that?"
"Unfortunately in the interview I said Obama. I'm not wanting (sic) the president dead. The prayer for his death is not my prayer but comes from God."
Drake said since the story hit he's gotten personal death threats and threats to picket and even burn down his church. The unrepentant Drake laughed them off saying he had nothing to fear since he was doing God's work.
A final question:
"Pastor will you come on my weekly radio show and explain to listeners the reason for citing a prayer against the president?"
"I'd better talk to my attorney first."
Stay tuned on that one.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, "The Hutchinson Report" can be heard weekly in Los Angeles Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on ktym.com