Billy James Hargis

Billy James Hargis

Billy James Hargis was born in Texarkana, Texas, on 3rd August, 1925. He was ordained by the Rose Hill Christian Church in 1943. Later he worked as a full-time minister at the First Christian Church at Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Granby, Missouri and at Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

In 1947 Hargis organized Christian Crusade, as "a Christian weapon against Communism and its godless allies". Hargis also ran an Annual Anti-Communist Leadership School. His daily broadcasts were carried by around 250 television and 500 radio stations across the United States.

A close friend of General Edwin Walker he became a member of the John Birch Society. Hargis used his national media network to promote right-wing politicians. This included writing speeches for Joseph McCarthy. In 1953 he travelled to West Germany where he launched 100,000 balloons, with Bible verses attached, over the iron curtain.

Hargis believed that the John F. Kennedy was assassinated as a result of a communist conspiracy and in 1964 published a book attacking communism entitled The Far Left. He also believed that the KGB and the American Communist Party tried to place the blame on right-wing organizations. "In spite of the absolute, indisputable evidence that Lee Oswald’s mind was molded by Communist conspiracy propaganda, that his hatred was of the American free enterprise system and all it embraces, and that no one with even the remotest connection with what is considered to be the extreme right has any remote connection with the entire hideous affair, the propaganda voices of the left continue to try to blame right wing conservatives for creating the atmosphere of 'hate' which caused Oswald to commit the assassination of President Kennedy. Do they really think the American people are that stupid? There is no doubt in my mind that the Communist assassin, Lee Oswald, intended to kill the President of the United States and disappear in the confused crowd, thus letting the conservative, anti-Communist element of Dallas take the blame. But it didn’t work. God is on the throne. He saw to it that Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended by a courageous Dallas policeman, Officer Tippit, who, in turn, gave his life for the cause of freedom in attempting to arrest the Communist assassin of the President."

Hargis was a strong supporter of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Presidential Election. In one radio broadcast Hargis accused the journalist, Fred Cook, of smearing Goldwater. When Red Lion, a Pennsylvania Radio Station refused Cook a right of reply, he sued. As a result of this case the Supreme Court established the "fairness doctrine".

In 1966 Hargis set up American Christian College in Tulsa. In his radio broadcasts he attacked the Beatles, long hair, the Anti-Defamation League, women's liberation and sex education and X-rated movies. He also promoted his college choir, the "All-American Kids".

It was rumoured that Hargis had been seducing members of his college. In 1974 two of his students claimed that they had had sex with him - one was female, one was male (they had discovered they had both had sex with Hargis on their wedding night) - other students corroborated the story. This story was revealed by Time Magazine in 1976. As a result of the scandal Hargis was forced to close his American Christian College.

Hargis continued to promote his right-wing Christian fundamentalism and published Why I Fight for a Christian America (1974), Federal Reserve Scandal (1984), My Great Mistake (1985) and Communist America (1986).

Billy James Hargis died on 27th November, 2004.

Primary Sources

(1) Billy James Hargis, The Far Left (1964)

The entire left-wing movement is of the devil. As Christians, the first way in which we can recognize the devil and his presence is that he is a liar. He speaks lies, he uses lies, his conspiracy is built on lies. Hear the words of Jesus and His controversy with the Jews: “Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it, and because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” What are the lies that are confronting the American people today as a result of this internal Communist conspiracy, and in connection with this murder of the President of the United States?

The first lie is that there is no conspiracy, that the Communist conspiracy does not exist, and there are not thousands upon thousands of trained Communist agents in this country today, some of them trained, as Lee Harvey Oswald obviously was, to be expert killers. The murder of the President of the United States was one of the most skillful acts of killing imaginable and could have been accomplished only by great training, and now the facts show that Oswald received such training inside the Soviet Union, while he lived there as a citizen.

It is a lie hatched in hell that the so-called “right-wing extremists” are guilty of the murder of the President of the United States. That lie was put out as official Communist Party propaganda in the first flash of Tass News Agency in Moscow as reported in this country within minutes after the President was killed. Tass, the Russian Communist News Agency, said it was believed that “right-wing extremists” were responsible for the murder of the President, and specifically branded General Edwin A. Walker as being one of those guilty.

(2) Billy James Hargis, The Far Left (1964)

Max Lerner in the ultra-liberal New York Post said, in trying to blame the anti-Communists and conservatives fort the death of the President: “When right-wing racist fanatics are told over and over again that the President is a traitor, a Red, a nigger-lover, that he had traduced the Constitution, is handing America over to a mongrelized world state, there are bound to be some fanatics, dull-witted enough to follow the logic of the indictment all the way and rid America of the man who is betraying it.” It is amazing that Mr. Lerner, in his responsible position in one of America’s best-known newspapers, refuses to recognize the threat of internal Communism which took the life of his President, John F. Kennedy.

A leading clergyman who tried to fix the blame on the anti-Communist community of the United States, was Bishop James A. Pike of the Episcopal Church, leading “light” of the National Council of Churches. Bishop Pike said: “In fixing the blame, we must include all those who, by their race hate and extreme radical right-wing propaganda, have constantly supplied the fuel which would fire up such a assassin.”

It is apparent now that the liberals were disappointed that the assassin did not turn out to be a member of the John Birch Society, Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, Daughters of the American Revolution, American Legion, or Christian Crusade. Within one hour after the death of Mr. Kennedy on the streets of Dallas, Friday, November 22, the television networks were blaming the anti-Communist community for the tragic event. Continually, they referred to the appearance of Adlai Stevenson in the same city a few weeks before, at which time he was picketed and allegedly spit on and hit on the head by a picket sign. There are some interesting “postscripts” to the treatment of Adlai Stevenson in Dallas when he appeared during the latter part of October, 1963 to address a Pro-United Nations rally. In the first place, Dallas has over 400 Cuban exile families with a total population of 1200 Cubans. There are pro-Castro and anti-Castro groups among these Cubans. The assassin, Lee Oswald, himself was an organizer of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and he lived and worked in the Dallas area. According to reports from people who observed the picket line in Dallas on the night that Stevenson spoke, the line was predominantly Latin Americans, and probably Cubans, not “right-wing” Americans.

(3) Billy James Hargis, The Far Left (1964)

In spite of the absolute, indisputable evidence that Lee Oswald’s mind was molded by Communist conspiracy propaganda, that his hatred was of the American free enterprise system and all it embraces, and that no one with even the remotest connection with what is considered to be the extreme right has any remote connection with the entire hideous affair, the propaganda voices of the left continue to try to blame right wing conservatives for creating the atmosphere of “hate” which caused Oswald to commit the assassination of President Kennedy. Do they really think the American people are that stupid?

There is no doubt in my mind that the Communist assassin, Lee Oswald, intended to kill the President of the United States and disappear in the confused crowd, thus letting the conservative, anti-Communist element of Dallas take the blame. But it didn’t work. God is on the throne. He saw to it that Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended by a courageous Dallas policeman, Officer Tippit, who, in turn, gave his life for the cause of freedom in attempting to arrest the Communist assassin of the President.

(4) Billy James Hargis, Weekly Crusader (6th December, 1963)

It may be difficult for my readers to understand my fear upon hearing the right-wing accused of participation in President Kennedy’s death. May I assure you, as one who has gone through a hate campaign directed at me by the liberals and left-wing element, and having seen the degree to which they will go to destroy anyone who stands in their way, my heart told me that their hatred knew no limitations and their vengeance knows no bounds.

I know - and you know - that no true conservative in the United States would stoop to taking the law into his own hands. I know - and you know - that any man who would assassinate the President of the United States, in these days when we still have "due process of law," would not be a conservative or a patriot, but an anarchist. I hold them in the same contempt that I hold the Communists or any man who would go beyond the law to achieve an end. In my thinking, the end never justifies the means.

Conservatives stand for law. We preach obedience to the law. For that reason, we opposed the racial demonstrators who took the law into their own hands and carried on racial agitations, defying state and local laws, without regard to "due process of law." My main criticism of the racial agitators is the fact that they have no regard for the law - that they go beyond the law in an emotional period of American history to accomplish their end. No American - no minority group - no majority group - can ever justify breaking the law to accomplish their self-justified goals.

You would have to lead an Anti-Communist Movement to know what the liberals are capable of - the hatred, incriminations, intimidations and coercion they constantly throw at the leaders of the anti-Communist cause. I cannot describe adequately the heartache and persecution heaped upon any leader of an anti-Communist movement by the liberal left-wing. With unlimited finances, and being in control of the national media - television, radio and publications - they can destroy a man without any shrug of conscience or regard for ‘due process of law.’ It is this lawless spirit that is preached by the Communists, and practiced by far too many liberals that we oppose.

(5) Time Magazine (16th February, 1976)

Rev. Billy James Hargis An ultra right fundamentalist, has long denounced sexual sin and spoken out as a defender of traditional virtues in an increasingly lax society. In 1968, his organization published the bestseller (250,000 copies) Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?

Today however, Hargis stands accused by former colleagues of committing some of the very sins he has railed against. Time Correspondent Anne Constable and Reporters Richard Walker and Tom Carter have learned that five students - four of them men - at his American Christian College in Tulsa have come forward and said that President Hargis has had sexual relations with them. Asked about the charges Hargis declined to give any specific reply. Through a lawyer he stated: "I have made more than my share of mistakes. I'm not proud of them. Even the Apostle Paul said, 'Christ died to save sinners. of whom I am chief.' Long ago, I made my peace with God, and my ministry continues."

That ministry centers on the Christian Crusade, which was founded by Hargis in 1950 to promote far-right political and religious causes, and includes radio and TV programs and the Christian Crusade Weekly. Hargis rallies have featured such notables as former Major General Edwin Walker and Governor George Wallace.

It was at the college that Hargis' sexual troubles surfaced in October 1974, when the first of the five students confessed to then Vice President David Noebel. Noebel's account: Not long before, Hargis had conducted a wedding for the student; on the honeymoon, the groom and the bride discovered that both of them had slept with Hargis.

Later, Noebel says, three more male students told him of having had sexual relations with Hargis over a period of three years. They said the trysts had taken place in Hargis' office, at his farm in the Ozarks, even during his tours with the college choir, the "All-American Kids." Noebel was told that Hargis justified his homosexual acts by citing the Old Testament friendship between David and Jonathan and threatened to blacklist the youths for life if they talked.

Noebel, a Hargis aide for twelve years, described how he felt when he first heard the students accounts: "For two weeks, I couldn't sleep. I know we had to get Hargis off campus or we were going to lose the whole school." Finally, on Oct. 25, 1974, Noebel and two other college officials confronted Hargis and two of his lawyers. According to two of those present, Hargis, who has a wife, three daughters and a son, admitted his guilt and blamed his behavior on "genes and chromosomes."

(6) Kevin Lambert , Scandals in Eden (1997)

Billy James Hargis, now in his 70's, built a career howling against the usual things that irritate the umbrageous right; sex, permissiveness, drugs, communism. A flat faced Oklahoman with the porcine eyes of a prison guard, he went from nowhere to top billing on 140 tv and 500 radio stations. He founded a Christian college and a newspaper which attained a circulation of 200,000. He got rich, of course, but as the bible tells us, money isn't everything.

In the mid-seventies, two students from his Bible College testified that the Reverend had officiated at their wedding ceremony, gone along on the honeymoon, and took his turn with the bride. And then with the groom. Then it came out that Hargis had been bringing college choir boys to his farm. Exhorting them with the biblical passage about David's friendship with Jonathan, and threatening them with blacklisting if they talked, Billy took them into his bed and did his devilish business with them. (The name of the choir was the "All American Kids.")

Confronted with these accusations, Hargis admitted it all, blaming it on "Genes and chromosomes." That confused his critics for a moment. Billy James had never been the kind of guy to trot in scientific arguments, so he stepped things up. He withdrew his confession and bounded back to the college. He claimed that the Lord had forgiven him, and, just in case He hadn't, held on to the mailing lists. He blamed his barnyard buggery on "Liberal subversion" and "The forces of Satan out to silence anti-communism." Before you laugh, bear in mind that this sort of Christian logic has elected more than a few American politicians.

(7) Michael Carlson, Billy James Hargis, The Guardian (10th December, 2004)

Standing 6ft 6ins and weighing nearly 20 stone, Hargis resembled the stereotypical southern sheriff more than a preacher, and his brand of fire and brimstone preaching came from a tradition known in the Ozarks as "bawl and jump". Born in Texarkana, Arkansas, the orphaned Hargis had promised to devote himself to Christ if his adopted mother recovered from illness. Although he never finished Bible college, he was ordained by the "Disciples Of Christ" while still a teenager, but after a few years abandoned his pastorate after finding success preaching on radio.

In 1950, with the red-baiting McCarthy era in its ascendancy, he launched the Christian Crusade Against Communism. In 1953, he travelled to West Germany to launch 100,000 balloons, with Bible verses attached, over the iron curtain.

Hargis's "communist" targets soon expanded, to government, the media, and even churches less committed than his to his fight. In 1957, the Disciples Of Christ withdrew his ordination, but by then his televised ministry was bringing in more than $1m a year, and he had established links with another evangelist, Carl McIntire, and General Edwin Walker, the rightwing general and John Birch Society leader. But the seeds of Hargis's downfall were planted firmly in his success.

First, the Internal Revenue Service decided Hargis's work was political and removed his tax exemption. Then, in a 1964 radio broadcast, Hargis accused journalist Fred Cook of smearing the Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, saying Cook had been fired from jobs for journalistic misconduct. When Red Lion, a Pennsylvania radio station refused Cook a right of reply, he sued, and, in its "Red Lion" decision, the US Supreme Court established the "fairness doctrine". Under the first President Bush, the requirement of balance was removed; the current administration has reduced the protections even further.

As his media power waned, Hargis founded the American Christian College in 1971. Having denounced the Beatles as "godless", he sold his school with cleancut images of its choir, the "All-American Kids", which became a touring show. In 1976, however, Time magazine reported that a student couple, married by Hargis in the college chapel, discovered on their wedding night that both had lost their virginity to Hargis. A number of male choir members accused him of coercing them into sex, justifying his seductions by quoting the example of David lying with Jonathan. Hargis denied the charges, saying communists and Satan were conspiring against him. But Hargis was forced to resign from his college.

He spent the next two decades back on the revival circuit, and founded a missionary foundation that set up orphanages, hospitals, and leprosy clinics in the third world. In his autobiography, My Great Mistake (1985) he wrote: "I was guilty of sin, but not the sin I was accused of." Despite a series of heart attacks, he continued to run Christian Crusade ministries until last year, when his son, Billy James Hargis II, assumed control.

(8) Adam Bernstein,Billy James Hargis, Washington Post (30th November, 2004)

He spoke to a largely rural audience - "lonely patriots," he called them - who saw communist conspiracies in government, the media and popular culture. He argued for the return of prayer and Bible reading to public school. He wrote several books, among them "Communist America - Must It Be?" (1960), and recorded "Songs and Sayings of Billy James Hargis." He sold them at his conferences.

In his speeches, he was insistent on action. "Write your congressman and your senator," he told one assembly in 1962. "Don't ask them to outlaw the Communist Party. Demand that they outlaw the Communist Party in the U.S.A. Don't ask them to reconsider our affiliation with the United Nations. Demand that they get this country out of the United Nations to reorganize the United Nations against godless anti-Christ communism. You are not working for them. You have nothing to fear. They represent you, and you should make your wishes known."

His most prominent followers made all manner of allegations. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker claimed that President Richard M. Nixon "appointed revolutionists to Cabinet posts." The Rev. David Noebel championed the idea that rock music was a communist plot to brainwash America's youth.

Mr. Hargis told attendees of his leadership school to watch their language - "one wild, unfounded, bigoted statement could submarine our whole program," he once said -- but some of his followers ignored his advice, sometimes to loud applause.

The Internal Revenue Service revoked his tax-exempt status in the early 1960s because of his alleged "political activities." The ministry was reportedly taking in more than $1 million a year (having grown from $63,000 in 1957).

Mr. Hargis argued that he was being "persecuted" for his religious beliefs, adding: "This action doesn't affect our corporation, only the contributors to our cause. And even so, our average contribution is $4. Now what would tax-exempt status mean to these 250,000 people? They are not big-money."

(9) Obituary of Billy James Hargis in the Daily Telegraph (10th December, 2004)

Despite his lack of formal qualifications, Hargis was ordained, aged 17, a minister in the evangelical Disciples of Christ denomination, and became a pastor at various churches in Oklahoma and Missouri.

By his own account, it was while he was working as pastor of the First Christian Church, Sapulpa, Oklahoma, that he "became aware of the threat of Communism internally". In 1950 he founded Christian Crusade, an interdenominational movement designed as a "Christian weapon against Communism and its godless allies".

From the early 1950s, he gave up his pastoral ministry and became a full-time radio and television preacher, presenting such programmes as Billy James Hargis Down on the Farm. Gradually his definition of the "godless allies" widened in range, taking in people working in government, business, unions, entertainment, cultural and charitable institutions and other religious organisations. He accused mainline Protestant churches of being infested with Communist sympathisers, and announced that the nation was in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals hooked on "the insidious dope of Socialism".

In the mid-1960s, the Disciples of Christ became concerned that Hargis was concentrating more on Communism than on Christ, and dropped him as an accredited minister. But by then his crusade had become big business.