June 24, 2004 Thursday
HEADLINE: Terror campaign against new Iraqi government escalates, Are new poll results affecting President Bush? Missing girl, softball coach, found
GUESTS: Lisa Bloom, Jerry Falwell, Al Sharpton, Tony Perry
BYLINE: Anderson Cooper, Heidi Collins, Dana Bash, Ed Henry, Kimberly Osais, Rusty Dornin
Terror campaign against new Iraqi government escalates, Are new poll results affecting President Bush? Missing girl found, softball coach, found
COLLINS: Other poll numbers from "Time" magazine also shed light on religious divide. Among Americans who consider themselves very religious, the magazine's survey says 59 percent support President Bush, while 35 percent of them back Kerry.
Here to talk more about the state of religion in politics are the Reverend Al Sharpton, a former Democratic presidential candidate who's in New York. And the Reverend Jerry Falwell of Liberty University. He's in Lynchburg, Virginia, tonight.
Good evening to the both of you and thank you so much for being here.
JERRY FALWELL, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Good evening.
REV. AL SHARPTON, FRM. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Good evening.
COLLINS: Reverend Sharpton, you may have read the "New York Times" a couple days ago, David Brooks writing an article about the Democrats' failings in attracting the religious vote. I want to show you just a little piece of that. He said "he," meaning Clinton, "understood that if Democrats are seen-are not seen that is, as religious, they will be seen as secular ivy league liberals and they'll lose. John Kerry doesn't seem to get that." Do the Democrats get it?
SHARPTON: I think the Democrats do get it. I think the danger that it will become more and more apparent as we go into the election, the danger the Republicans are playing are twofold. One, I think it is the misuse of religion that has caused a lot of problems in the Middle East. And I think when Americans are presented with the fact, you really want to border on theocracy or religious fanaticism and politics, which is what is fueling a lot of the terrorists that we're dealing with.
And secondly, how they're selective with it. You know, as your piece said we want to deal with the issues of gay marriage or the issues of abortion. Well, let's do the whole ten commandments. Let's talk about thou shall not lie, when we talk about weapons of mass destruction. Or bear false witness, when you talk about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Let's argue the whole ten commandments if we want to have the debate. I don't think the right wing Republicans really want that.
COLLINS: All right, Reverend Falwell I want to get to you. In the same "Time" magazine poll, I should share some more numbers, 69 percent of nonreligious people favor Kerry while just 22 percent support Bush. Now the GOP have done a pretty good job of appealing to conservatives, but do you think that the party needs to move beyond that in including more people?
FALWELL: Well, I don't think there's any question Mr. Bush would welcome any vote by anybody, atheist, believer, whatever. And Reverend Al Sharpton there is a friend of mine, and Al's an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ so he certainly does not object to any mixture of religion and politics.
He, at the same time, would, I think agree with me that one's faith, if that faith is genuine, will certainly impact our behavior, both in private and public life. Mr. Bush does not attempt to use religion, but he's a man of faith who has had a born-again experience with faith in Christ as Al Sharpton would, I think, testify to the same. And therefore, he's not ashamed to talk about it, let it govern his views and values and as a Christian who believes in the sanctity of life, born and unborn, he happens to be pro-life as millions of Americans are, as I am. I don't think it is bad for him to use that White House as a bully pulpit, as all presidents have.
COLLINS: Reverend Sharpton, let me ask you generally the same question. As long as mainstream Democrats seem to agree with pro- choice, supporting stem cell research, civil unions, do you believe they can actually attract church-going Americans? Do they have to modify their positions as well?
SHARPTON: No, I think they have to clarify. I think that there's a difference between, say, one believes in something or saying one believes people have the right to choose for themselves what they want to believe. And I think that once that's clarified, that's a big difference in me saying what I believe, and what my family believes. And then that I believe I have the right to impose that on you.
I feel I'm a good enough preacher to convert you. I don't have to use the law to force you to do what I believe in. I think that's where we part ways when many of the right wing Christian, in my judgment, ideologues that are trying to push this.
COLLINS: Reverend Falwell, as you know, Catholics are one of the critical swing voting blocks, almost 64 million Americans being Catholic. But right now, the vote is, as we have all seen, split between Bush and Kerry. Just 33 percent of Catholics know that John Kerry himself is Catholic. Do you think that the party is in jeopardy of losing this bloc once voters know what Kerry's religion is?
FALWELL: Well, I'm not sure I could comment on that intelligently, but I do know there are 80 million Evangelicals in America. Some of those are Catholics and most are Protestants but they cross all lines, black, white, red, yellow. And all of them take the Bible seriously and Mr. Bush, like Billy Graham, happens to be one of them. Mr. Reagan was one of them. I personally believe that unless the Democratic party gets off this anti-Christian, anti-faith, anti, you know, religious heritage in America kick, they're going to lose. Right now, a poll this morning, Fox News Channel has Mr. Bush up 47-40. I think Mr. Bush will win by a landslide unless the Democrats get off this anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-religion kick.
COLLINS: All right. Reverend Jerry Falwell, thanks so much for your time tonight and Reverend Al Sharpton as well. Thanks to the both of you.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
COLLINS: We'll be back in just a moment here on 360.
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