For televangelist Joel Osteen, faith isn’t the primary determinant when it comes to voting for a president.
Appearing Tuesday night on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, the Lakewood Church pastor said he would have no problem voting for a presidential candidate who holds a different set of beliefs than his own—and that includes Mormon Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
“That would not stop me from voting for somebody,” Osteen said. “I would look at the total candidate though—you know, what's their experience, what's their education, what do they stand for? I don't think I would vote for somebody just because they're a Mormon or anything like that.”
When Morgan asked about backing a Jewish candidate, Osteen didn’t think twice: “Sure, I could vote for a Jewish candidate—that's how our faith was started. They're God's chosen people in Scripture.” But as Morgan posed the hypothetical question of voting for a Muslim candidate, Osteen was a bit more hesitant.
“I think I could, I would have to look at it all,” he responded. “It's so hypothetical, because we’re talking about for America—and 90 percent of America is Christian. So I’m pretty sure that I would find someone who shares my beliefs and is educated and qualified. So it's hard for me to go there because I don't think we will come to that point.”
Osteen took the opportunity to address the recent events in the Middle East, calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a “difficult situation.” The charismatic preacher and his wife, Victoria, visited Israel in February and acknowledged on air that Scripture says for believers to pray for peace and stand with Israel. “[But] our hearts go out to the Palestinian people as well. They want peace, they want to live their life in victory, and it’s a difficult thing.”
Osteen's wife, Victoria Osteen, accompanied her husband on his CNN appearance and talked about their recent trip to Israel. “We found it very peaceful, “ she said. “It's amazing, a country that has been under such conflict for so long. You know, you hear stories in America like it's dangerous and you see the worst, but you go in there and the people are very solid. They're very peaceful. They have a lot of confidence in the fact that they're going to be OK.”
Since becoming senior pastor of what is now America’s largest church, Osteen has ministered to millions around the world via his massive television ministry. And although he is often criticized for presenting a “soft” gospel message, on Morgan’s show Osteen once again stood firm with a biblical stance on at least one hot-button issue: homosexuality.
In January, secular media outlets lambasted Osteen for publically saying homosexuality was a sin and referring to it as something that isn’t God's best for a person's life. “The Scripture shows that it's a sin,” he said in his earlier appearance with Morgan. “But I'm not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they're horrible people and all that … They're good people. I say it's wrong because that's what the Scripture says. I choose to live my life by what I read in the Scripture.”
On Tuesday's appearance, he remained consistent on his stance. “I believed it before and I still believe it now. … Two hundred years from now the Scripture is still going to say that.” Though Osteen said he would not marry a same-sex couple, he and his wife did note that they would attend a same-sex wedding if whose getting married were friends.