Orange County Christian radio briefly found something other than Bill Clinton or homosexuality to rant about on April 19, a day after a federal judge blocked an entertainment company's bid to televise the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Rich Agozino, controversial host of Crosstalk on the Costa Mesa-based "contemporary Christian" KBRT-AM, and his callers were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the judge's ruling. They contend that God wants the execution televised for a national or international audience.
"We have freedom of pornography and child pornography, but we don't have the right to watch a national criminal vindicated?" said an incredulous Agozino, momentarily confused about the definition of "vindicate" as well as anti-child-porn laws. "How can our national soul be healed without a public execution?"
Agozino, a self-described Christian pastor infamous for advocating government-sponsored public executions of all "practicing" California homosexuals in 1997, said that the Old Testament is unequivocal: allowing only personal eyewitnesses to the McVeigh execution would be "like salt that has no flavor to it."
"All I know is that God said the community should watch this execution," Agozino said. "That is the way to purge evil from society. . . . Let the chips fall where they may."
Caller Melanie agreed.
"It's a form of entertainment," she said. "We're in the last days, anyway."
Doug, who said he teaches "abnormal psychology" at a local college, worried that there would be "a disconnect between God" and the execution, but ultimately caved into Agozino's logic.
"The law, when it is lawful, is lawful," the radio-show host explained. "Isn't our job in our culture to represent the word of God regardless of whether the world will listen to us?"
Agozino, who routinely uses his show to back such conservative Republicans as bitter, defeated ex-Congressman Bob Dornan, insisted God "requires" everyone to participate in public executions. In Biblical times, he said, persons accused of crimes by two people would be "put in front of a building and stoned to death."
(True, except in those cases when angry mobs were stopped by a long-haired radical who said things like, "Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone.")
Those good old days exist no longer because "liberal theologians"—no doubt influenced by the same long-haired radical—created the "nonsense" concept of "cruel and unusual punishment during the past 50 years," according to Agozino.
"Are we supposed to be more loving, more humane than God himself?" he asked.
Thrifty, Bible-quoting caller Jeff—who sounded like a white, twentysomething male—didn't need convincing.
"We should do it speedy," he said. "Take him out back and put a bullet in his head. I just don't want it to cost me any money."
Agozino—who peddled everything from insurance to "a wonderful deal" on bottled water during commercial breaks—bemoaned the lack of theatrics involved in a seemingly no-frills needle injection death for McVeigh.
"I know it won't be much," he said. "Not like a public hanging."
A female African-American caller agreed that McVeigh should receive the death penalty but sounded disgusted by talk of execution production values.
"I don't need to see this," she said calmly.
Agozino was incredulous.
"God uses public executions as a deterrent," he said.
The woman was not swayed.
"This just isn't going to make a difference," she said.
Lisa, one of the final callers to the show, managed to tie the McVeigh execution to Agozino's favorite subject: homosexuality. She fretted that "homosexuals and adulterers" are not being executed as the Bible requires.
"We need to see it [executions] happen for real," she said. "Every generation gets worse."
"Absolutely," said Agozino. "Our culture doesn't even want to discuss this, but it is the duty, obligation and privilege of Christians to see" the executions.
Lisa veered the conversation back to homosexuality, pontificating on the "ill effects [gays have] on families."
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"They are brainwashing us," she said.
"That's right," said Agozino, who calls gays "sodomites" on his show, which airs from 3:30 to 6 p.m. weekdays. "This is not about hate or violence. God wants us to purge evil from our culture."
On his Aug. 29, 1997, show, Agozino said, "Civil magistrates are to put to death people who practice homosexuality." Later, after national media exposure, KRBT's station manager suggested that the talk-show host had been innocently asking a question, not advocating a stance.
Nevertheless, gay Americans are the prime target of Agozino's broadcasts. He routinely conjures up fear among his listeners, once telling them to immediately "recruit-proof your children" from homosexuals plotting a takeover of public schools. He has also encouraged Christians to "take the gloves off" when it comes to fighting against the rights of gay citizens.