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San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church attempts to further distance itself from extreme right-wing rally

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Cornerstone Church in San Antonio

John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio has issued an apology for hosting an extremist rally.

The Reawaken America Tour appeared in San Antonio at the church, which was roundly criticized by many religious leaders after video showed the crowd chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” a euphemism for an insult against President Joe Biden. After an attempt to distance themselves from the event, another video surfaced of Pastor Matt Hagee, John Hagee’s son, welcoming the crowd and congratulating them for attending. 

The church offered a later statement in which the younger Hagee apologized for his involvement, and asked for forgiveness. The statement said the group was not properly vetted, and stated that, “In the future, Cornerstone Church would ensure that organizations using their facility are an appropriate reflection of their mission and vision.”   

Full statement from Matt Hagee:

Last week I allowed an event to be held at Cornerstone Church by an outside organization. Regrettably, the organization was not properly vetted. It was not appropriate to allow this event at our church. The Church is not associated with this organization and does not endorse their views.  I was invited to welcome the crowd where I thanked veterans for their service and thanked the crowd for their commitment to their faith.  I deeply regret, and ask forgiveness, for what took place in the Cornerstone sanctuary as a result of my oversight.  In the future, Cornerstone Church will ensure that organizations using our facility are an appropriate reflection of our mission and vision.

The conference took place on Nov. 11-13, and speakers included former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, Trump political consultant Roger Stone and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. All three are well-known conspiracy theorists. 

They railed against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and election fraud, and Flynn was caught on video calling for “one religion” in the United States. 

Critics, including religious leaders, have condemned organizers for holding the political event in a religious setting.

Oklahoma Pastor Jeremy Coleman shared his thoughts on TikTok:

“Look, if you're going to be a white nationalist cult rally, just say that if you're going to be a bigoted political rally, just say that, but don't call yourself a church. Churches are meant to be places of unconditional love for your neighbor. That means your Republican neighbor, your Democrat neighbor, your gay neighbor, your straight neighbor, your Black neighbor, your white neighbor, your American neighbor, your immigrant neighbor,” Coleman said. 

“It's meant to be a place where everybody can come together in unity and love and worship Jesus. So you can miss me with that bull crap because that's a white nationalist cult rally — who needs to start paying taxes.”  

Pastor Doug Pagitt is the executive director of Vote Common Good, a nonprofit organization that targets evangelicals who are not comfortable with extreme right-wing politics. He said the type of rhetoric he heard at the event doesn’t belong in a church.

“I just don't think it fits our civil discourse,” he said. “If people disagree with Joe Biden and don't want him to be president, I think they should work as hard as they can to try to make him, not to allow him to be reelected. But what's going on here is something different, and it all fits, unfortunately, into a larger pattern of where the Donald Trump movement of politics has taken our country and has chosen to feel the followers of it.” 

Pagitt said churches need to look within themselves to question their own motives. He referenced critics who want churches to be taxed.

“I do think churches have to continue to make an argument if they want to function in the nonprofit sector, that they're going to behave for the public good and not for the good of a particular political party or of only particular subsets of our society,” said Pagitt. 

“I think moments like this make churches and church leaders, as I am a church leader, have to answer the question, ‘Can we honestly, and with full integrity, say that we exist for the common good and for public benefit?’ Which is the requirement of tax deductibility and not just to service our own outcomes of our own people for our own benefits.”

Hagee’s church released a statement that said in part that “Cornerstone Church is not associated with this organization and does not endorse their views.” They explained that they rented the facility to an outside organization. 

A video from americanfaith.com and reposted on Twitter shows Pastor Matt Hagee, John Hagee’s son, introduced as the host, and welcoming the crowd to the conference:

“I also want to tell each and every one of you who are here how proud I am of the individual decision that you have made today. The Bible says to choose life. ‘I've set before you life and death, choose life.’ And by being here, you have made the conscious decision to live in your faith rather than die in your fear. And I want to tell you how proud I am of that decision. So God bless you. Have a wonderful day. Welcome to Cornerstone Church.”  

The Reawaken America Conferences will continue touring U.S. cities through January 2022.

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