"I don't care what the American Civil Liberties Union says or any atheists say. This nation belongs to Jesus, and we're here today to reclaim his sovereignty," said Robertson, 82, who suggested in 2010 that Haiti's devastating earthquake that left over 100,000 dead was brought on by Haiti's –– "pact with the devil."
Robertson, a former Republican candidate for president and founder of the Christian Coalition and Christian Broadcasting Network, was one of the organizers for "America for Jesus 2012" prayer rally.
According to One Nation under God, the group backing the event, the reason for having the rally was simple: America is in trouble with God.
"While America was founded as “one nation under God,” we’ve now allowed other gods to take up residence here," said a statement on CBN
. "The solution is to take back America, and a good place to start is in prayer."
Citing the recent weather phenomena as signs that, as a nation, we’ve lost the hedge of protection from the Lord, rally organizers are calling for 40 days of prayer prior to the presidential election, the Associated Press
Many speakers, including Robertson, called for the thousands of Christians who turned up at Independence Mall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, to carefully consider who they will vote for in the upcoming presidential election.
"Much like the movement for independence in the 18th century, America for Jesus 2012 is a patriotic movement, not a political one," said Rev. John Blanchard, national coordinator for America for Jesus 2012.
Blanchard, executive pastor of Rock Church, says the two-day event that started Friday night was not partisan.
"We don't need to follow the elephant or the donkey, but rather the Lamb of God."
"Washington for Jesus" rally
As Blanchard himself acknowledged to NBCphiladelphia
: It's modeled after the 1980 "Washington for Jesus" rally, considered a pivotal show of organizational strength by the "then-fledgling Christian right."
The 1980 rally was criticized by some organized churches for its political overtones, but which planners then insisted was an attempt at "calling the national leadership back to God."
The late John Gimenez, who conceived the idea for the Christian rally in October of 1978 when "God spoke" to him in a vision, denied the aim was political. But he did acknowledge to newspapers at the time that many of the rally's planners had strong views against abortion, feminism, the Equal Rights Amendment and homosexual conduct but were in favor of allowing prayer In schools.
According to The Miami News
, published on Apr 29, 1980, as a counterpart to the rally, Interchange, a coalition of progressive organizations, held a press conference to denounce the "political nature" of the "Washington for Jesus" events.
“Many of the organizers have political' track records that are not only conservative, but almost reactionary," said Rev. David Eaton.
James Farmer, founder of the Congress of Racial Equality, who called his own news conference at the time was a little more blunt.
He told reporters that "if the Jesus I knew were looking down on the on the Mall today, he would probably feel compelled to say, 'Thank God I am not a Christian."
"We must fight to defeat their use of religious rhetoric to conceal their right-wing objectives," he said.
Old Wine, New Wineskin
Just as in 1980, the "America for Jesus 2012" prayer rally claims to be politically non-partisan, yet some speakers appeared to reflect a far right-wing agenda.
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, who is on a nationwide "Your Money, Your Values, Your Vote" bus tour, co-sponsored with American conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, spoke at the rally and asked the crowd to pray for Obama.
"We pray that his eyes will be open to the truth," Perkins said.
The rally also featured Steve Strang, the influential Pentecostal publisher of Charisma magazine, which was distributed at the rally, who recently wrote in a blogpost that America is under threat from a "radical homosexual agenda."
He also said Obama "seems to be moving toward some form of European socialism."
And speaker Cindy Jacobs has blamed a mysterious Arkansas bird-kill last year on Obama's repeal of the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell," which allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, the Associated Press
Support Mitt Romney
But the highlight of the day came in the middle of Robertson's speech when Rives Grogan, a pastor of the New Beginnings Christian Church in Los Angeles, had a message to share, the Philadelphia Inquirer
"Obama is bringing sin on the nation. Support Mitt Romney!" Grogan shouted from the crowd of 8,000 to 10,000, as he held up a plaque with photos of bloodied images."Don't be a hypocrite. Who are you going to vote for?"
Robertson let it pass, initially. He continued his speech and then told Grogan to "shut your mouth" because "this is not political."
But Grogan kept shouting.
Suddenly, the crowd began surrounding Grogan, hands in the air, praying for him in unison.
He continued to shout. They continued to pray. He told people not to touch him. They continued to pray.
He eventually stopped shouting when the crowd -- broke into song. Event security came over and told him that they would pray for him, The Inquirer said.
In October, incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in three presidential debates. PennLive
reported that organizers plan another prayer rally, on October 20, in Washington, D.C., two weeks before President Barack Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential election.