Religious Biography

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and went to high school and college in Minnesota. Her parents divorced in 1970, when she was a teenager, and her mother subsequently remarried. Bachmann regularly attended a Lutheran church as a child, but in an April 2011 speech, Bachmann said it was not until she was born again at age 16 that “the Gospel finally made sense to me” and “I received the Holy Spirit into my life.” She became a “voracious” Bible reader, setting her alarm for 5:30 a.m. each day to read Scripture. During the rest of high school in Anoka, Minn., and college at Winona State University, she said, she listened to Christian radio broadcasts, attended prayer meetings before school, founded Bible-study groups, spent a summer in Israel with the Christian youth group Young Life and joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.

In an October 2006 speech at Minneapolis megachurch Living Word Christian Center during her first run for the U.S. Congress, Bachmann said she was praying one night in college when God gave her a sudden vision of “getting married in a farm valley” to a fellow student, Marcus Bachmann, who also was an evangelical Christian. The couple married in 1978. They are the biological parents of five children and have been foster parents, for varying lengths of time, to 23 girls.

It’s a Creator who endowed us with inalienable rights given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take.

– Michele Bachmann speaking at a June 2011 GOP presidential debate in Manchester, N.H.

Bachmann has said she felt called by God to attend “the first Christian law school in the United States, Oral Roberts University,” in Tulsa, Okla. (The university’s law school has since closed.) While attending law school, Bachmann worked as a research assistant to Professor John Eidsmoe on his book Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers. When her husband suggested she earn a post-J.D. degree in tax law, Bachmann said in another 2006 speech at Living Word Christian Center, she agreed because “the Lord says … be submissive to your husbands.” (Asked in August 2011 by a CBS News reporter whether she thinks “submissive means subservient,” Bachmann said, “Not to us. To us it means respect. We respect each other, we listen to each other.”)

After practicing as a tax lawyer for a few years, Bachmann said in the April 2011 speech, “I realized my life-long dream, which was to be a full-time mother at home.” According to a 2011 report by The New Yorker, during her years as a stay-at-home mother, Bachmann became an education activist, delivering lectures that criticized federal education policies, advocating for Christian home-schooling and helping found a charter school. Following her election to the Minnesota State Senate in 2000, Bachmann led an unsuccessful effort to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In 2003, the Bachmanns opened Bachmann & Associates, Inc., which operates two Christian counseling centers in Minnesota. According to some media reports, Bachmann & Associates has practiced reparative therapy, a technique opposed by the American Psychiatric Association and other medical groups, that attempts to help gays and lesbians change their sexual orientation. In a July 2011 interview with the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Marcus Bachmann said he would employ the therapy only “at the client’s discretion.”

Before deciding to run for Congress in 2006, Bachmann has said she and her husband fasted and prayed until God “made that calling sure.” Now serving her third term, Bachmann is the founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and gave the Tea Party response to President Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address. She also is a member of the Congressional Prayer Caucus and writes on her congressional website that America “must never be ashamed of its Judeo-Christian roots and faith.”

For many years as an adult, Bachmann attended worship services in Stillwater, Minn., at Salem Lutheran Church, a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. A theologically conservative branch of Lutheranism, the WELS subscribes to the historic Lutheran position that the Roman Catholic papacy “fits the biblical characteristics of the antichrist.” But the president of the Synod has denied any anti-Catholic bigotry, and according to Religion News Service, Bachmann said in a 2006 campaign debate that her “church does not believe that the pope is the antichrist, that’s absolutely false.” Nonetheless, Bachmann formally left Salem Lutheran Church a few days before announcing her presidential bid. According to media reports, she now attends Eagle Brook Church, an evangelical Protestant megachurch near St. Paul, Minn.

Bachmann said in an April 2011 interview with Christianity Today that she looks to Jesus Christ, Moses and evangelical Protestant theologian Francis Schaeffer for inspiration. Bachmann has cited as a turning point in her life the first time she watched Schaeffer’s film series How Should We Then Live? The series lauds Christianity’s influence on politics and characterizes abortion rights and genetic engineering as morally dangerous. In a 2011 interview with The New Yorker, Bachmann said Schaeffer showed her “how the application of living according to Christian principles has helped the culture for the better.”

Published on November 8, 2011