The address has been highly anticipated by US lawmakers, who have agreed to put aside their partisan bickering and vowed not to politicize the speech in deference to the influential religious leader.
"Congress will be on its very best behavior on this occasion," Rep. Charlie Dent told the Hill in anticipation of the Pope’s visit.
But one Republican House member, Paul Gosar, isn’t as pleased with the pope’s visit, and has even started politicizing Francis’ speech before his arrival to the US. The congressman has said that he is ready to boycott the address in protest of pontiff’s views on climate change.
In an op-ed written for the conservative site, Townhall.com, Gosar says he fears that the pope, who is an outspoken advocate for combating man-made climate change, will dedicate the bulk of his address to urging Congress to act on the issue.
"At this pivotal moment in world history, His Holiness, Pope Francis, is intending to spend the majority of his time on one of the world’s greatest stages focusing on climate change," he wrote. "If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate-change policies, then I will not attend."
Since the Vatican has been careful not to reveal any details about Francis’s address to Congress, it’s unclear how or why Gosar believes that the pope will extensively discuss climate change. According to his op-ed, however, the congressman is not only certain of this, but he is also outraged that that the pope would advocate for the environment under the auspices of the Catholic Church.
"If the pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change, then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous," Gosar, who is also a Catholic, wrote. "When the pope chooses to act like a leftist politician, then he can expected to be treated like one."
Gosar continues to accuse the pope of infusing his environmental advocacy with leftist ideology.
"More troubling is the fact that this climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into 'climate-change' and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policy."
While Gosar has no problem referring to the scientific evidence behind man-made climate change as "false," he also doesn’t seem to believe his own point of view requires any evidence. Instead, he simply states that people should share his belief.
"The earth’s climate has been changing since God created it, with or without man," he wrote. "On that, we should all agree."
Gosar even lists a number of topics he believes the pontiff should focus on instead of climate change.
"If the pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly."
"Many believed, like I did, that this was an opportunity for the pope to be one of the world’s great religious advocates and address the current intolerance of religious freedom," he said, explaining his disappointment with the pontiff.
It seems as though Gosar’s problem with the pope’s speech is not so much that it is ideologically infused, but rather, that Pope Francis – a major religious leader and head of state – doesn’t share the same opinions as the congressman.
Gosar told reporters after a House meeting on Friday that his decision to boycott the Pope’s speech has received support from his colleagues, adding that at least one other member will not attend, though he did not give the lawmaker’s name.