[Check out another piece of Wheel-related content over at my new blog project!]
Welcome back to the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog! Given that Monday is a holiday, you’re getting this post a little bit early–hold your applause, please. Like a broken record, I’ll recite my standard spiel here: if you’re enjoying this project, give it a like and a share on the social media platform of your choice, and let me know if there are any specific celebrities you’d like for me to investigate.
Evidence about the religious affiliation of today’s subject, Wheel of Fortune host and occasional political commentator Pat Sajak, was even more difficult to come by than it was for our last celebrity, “Weird Al” Yankovic. This is not because Sajak shies away from the public eye; indeed, he has hosted Wheel since 1981, and he has been very outspoken on a variety of political topics in recent years. Spoiler alert: he’s quite conservative. (1)
What of his religion, though? Sajak appears regularly on lists of supposed Church of Christ celebrities. I, for one, grew up hearing that he was a member, and no less venerable a source than Wikipedia makes the claim that “Sajak is a member of the Churches of Christ.” (2) But, as mentioned above, the actual evidence is a great deal murkier.
Somewhat bizarrely, Sajak’s love life provides us the best avenue to find out more about his religious beliefs. To begin with, a feature in People reveals that Sajak got married in a nineteenth-century Catholic church back in 1989–and no, he and co-host Vanna White have never been married, in case you’re wondering. (3)
More relevantly for us, however, this marriage was preceded by an annulment, according to the Los Angeles Times: “The who’s who of American annulees includes Frank Sinatra, Lee Iacocca, Pat Sajak and Lee Radziwill…. But most of the [Roman Catholic] church’s 50,000 or so annual petitions for annulment come from lesser-known men and women who simply want to get on with their lives.” (4)
This evidence seems to suggest that Sajak is Catholic, and that he has been so for some time. Why, then, does he appear so often on lists of Church of Christ celebrities?
In the comment section for a post on the “Rick’s Reflections” blog, an anonymous poster writes, typographical errors and all, that “Pat Sajak was married to a coc preacher’s kid when he was a weather man in Nashville. He may have converted to catholic in his 2nd marriage.” (5)
Anonymous comments on blogs should be treated with a hearty dose of skepticism, of course, but there is corroborating evidence from another source. A letter to the online newspaper/magazine Reflections references Sajak’s first wife, albeit in a parenthetical aside branching from a discussion of Freed-Hardeman University: “Dub’s [Dub McClish’s] sister-in-law grew up with me at Henderson (her daddy was B.B. James, the local preacher there in the early 50’s and a nice guy). She married Pat Sajak, of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ fame, but they are now divorced.” (6)
What to conclude from all of this? In short, I was not able to find any concrete evidence linking Sajak directly to Churches of Christ. The bulk of the sources–at least, sources that aren’t dubious lists of purported Church of Christ celebrities–point in the direction of Sajak being Catholic. (Presumably, he appears on said lists because of his first wife.)
That means, then, that this week’s “Church of Christ celebrity” is DEBUNKED, at least based on the publicly available evidence. (I’m always happy to be proven wrong if you have insider information, of course.) Feeling like an honorary Mythbuster right now!
(1) See, for instance, Pat Sajak, “Opposed to Obamacare? Then You Must Be a Racist,” Human Events, March 29, 2010, accessed August 24, 2017, http://humanevents.com/2010/03/29/opposed-to-obamacare-then-you-must-be-a-racist/ ; Rebecca Dana, “Why Game Show Hosts Vote Republican,” The Daily Beast, May 21, 2014, accessed August 24, 2017, http://www.thedailybeast.com/why-game-show-hosts-vote-republican .
(2) “Pat Sajak,” Wikipedia, accessed August 24, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Sajak .
(3) Jeannie Park and Vicki Sheff, “How Do You Spell Love and Bliss?” People, January 15, 1990, accessed August 24, 2017, http://people.com/archive/cover-story-how-do-you-spell-love-and-bliss-vol-33-no-2/ .
(4) Pamela Warrick, “In Record Numbers, Catholics Who Love the Church but No Longer Love Their Spouses Are Seeking to…: Annul and Void,” August 18, 1993, accessed August 24, 2017, http://articles.latimes.com/1993-08-18/news/vw-24991_1_annulment-process .
(5) Rick Ross, “‘Church of Christ’ Celebs,” Rick’s Reflections, April 4, 2006, accessed August 24, 2017, https://rross.blogspot.com/2006/04/church-of-christ-celebs.html . And no, it’s not THAT Rick Ross.
(6) “Readers’ Reflections,” Reflections, June 15, 2012, accessed August 24, 2017, http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx535.htm .