John Mark Burns (born September 21, 1979) is an American Evangelical Christian pastor of Harvest Praise & Worship Center in South Carolina and was a surrogate of Republican nominee Donald Trump's 2016 candidacy for the U.S. presidency. Burns is co-founder of the NOW Television Network, a Christian television network, also based in South Carolina.Contents
Burns was born in Anderson, South Carolina, on September 21, 1979, as John Mark Burns, to parents Otis and Debra Burns. At an early age, he began playing the keyboard and singing gospel music with his family group, the Burns Brothers of Belton, SC, traveling extensively around the country. In 1995, at the age of 16, Burns was licensed as a minister of the gospel under his father at the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, in Pelzer, SC. While preaching, he attended Belton-Honea Path High School and in 1998 received a South Carolina GED from the South Carolina Department of Education. He later attended North Greenville University for one semester. On February 19, 2005, Burns was ordained at Traveler's Rest Baptist Church, in Seneca, SC.Televangelism
Burns, along with his wife, Tomarra Burns, founded the NOW Television Network, a Christian television network based in South Carolina, on March 1, 2015. He is also executive producer and host of the "Lift Every Voice Gospel Show."Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016
Burns, labeled by Time magazine as "Donald Trump's Top Pastor" and named one of the "16 People Who Shaped the 2016 Presidential Election" by Yahoo News, is a Trump supporter and surrogate, who appeared on several news channels on behalf of the campaign, including CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, Al Jazeera-America, BBC, CBS News and National Public Radio. He traveled extensively with the Trump campaign, speaking before and introducing the candidate. Burns claimed he had usually voted Democratic, which included support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, saying “I’m not ashamed to say that as a black man I wanted the first black man to enter the office.” But he later said, in 2016, he had "seen the light." Of Trump he said “He’s a smart man. He knows authenticity. I believe he knows and recognizes real character.”Controversies
At a Trump rally in North Carolina, he said that Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, "gotta get saved". He later addressed his statement and said he had not intended to criticize Judaism and that his remarks "had nothing to do with faith or religion or conversion to Christianity."
Burns offered the benediction on the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Before the prayer, he addressed the convention, called Trump a "man of God" and called on Republicans to not attack each other, labeling Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party the "enemy." Critics of the message, including the Interfaith Alliance, accused Burns of inserting God into partisan politics. Later, he said "If I could go back and use different wording I wouldn't have said 'enemy,' I would have said, 'political opponents.'"
In August 2016, Burns was criticized after he retweeted a digitally manipulated image of Hillary Clinton in blackface. Burns later stated, "I prayed that those who I offended really receive ... a sincere apology," adding that he believes that the Democratic Party uses black people for votes.
Burns claimed to have held a bachelor of science degree from North Greenville University; said he was a member of the historically African-American fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi; and claimed to have served six years in the U.S. Army Reserve. But in August 2016, those longstanding claims in his biography were disproved after CNN fact-checked them. North Greenville University told CNN that Burns attended the school for just one semester and did not receive a degree. Additionally, when questioned by CNN about his claimed participation in the Army Reserve, Burns, who had served in the South Carolina Army National Guard, from 2001 to 2005, stated "the Army South Carolina National Guard is Reserves." However, CNN noted that the South Carolina National Guard is a completely separate organization, unrelated to the Army Reserve. When questioned about his attendance at Andersonville Theological Seminary, also mentioned in his biography, Burns was unable to clarify. His church's website also claimed he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a national historically black fraternity. Burns responded that he had "started the process," but did not complete initiation. Burns also claimed about the website: "Obviously this has been manipulated or either hacked or added." Website host Wix.com however, responded that there was no evidence of a hack. Later he admitted that he had lied and had unacceptably exaggerated his education, but said he was attacked because he is "a black man supporting Donald Trump for president."Personal life
Burns is married to Tomarra Burns, and together they have six children.References