- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2006

The Rev. Pat Robertson has canceled a speech scheduled for next month at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Dallas after NRB officials expressed doubts about the effect his appearance might have.

The Virginia Beach evangelist, who said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine punishment for the country’s withdrawal from Gaza last summer and who later apologized for the remarks after a wave of criticism, was to have spoken at the Feb. 21 closing banquet.

NRB leaders met with Mr. Robertson last week, according to AP Radio, to express their concerns that his appearance could detract from the convention. Although the evangelist was not told to step down, he did release a statement citing demands on his time.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Robertson did not return a call requesting comment. An NRB statement said the speaker switch was a result of “scheduling complexities.”

An increasing number of evangelical leaders, including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, author Os Guinness and Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance, are publicly criticizing the televangelist for his remarks.

Henry Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International in Atlanta and author of the bestseller “Experiencing God,” will fill Mr. Robertson’s spot.

The NRB hosts an annual convention for about 500 people, including about 187 Christian radio and other broadcast professionals. Its exhibition center features 300 vendors, and top names in Christian entertainment often appear there.

Mr. Robertson, who began his Christian Broadcasting Network ministry on Aug. 3, 1961, in the Norfolk area, is one of the grandfathers in Christian media. His 1988 run for the Republican presidential nomination was the height of his influence in the secular world.

His interest in politics got him into hot water in August when the broadcaster suggested U.S. special forces should “take out” anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He later apologized for the statement.

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