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subject: AANEWS for August 29, 2000
The beat goes on: Lieberman again cites religion; ADL calls for restraint,
American Atheists speak out
AANews, #809, 29 August 2000
Is the religious rhetoric and posturing of election year 2000 out of
Today, candidates on both sides of the political divide continued
their effort to appeal to faith-based groups and cite the virtues of
religious belief, despite calls for a "cease fire" in what has become
a rhetorical war of faith.
Democratic Vice Presidential hopeful Joseph Lieberman continued to
push the state-church boundary in an address at an interfaith prayer
breakfast in Chicago attended by over 150 members of the clergy. The
Connecticut senator declared that "religion is a source of unity and
strength in America," adding "This is the most religious country in
the world, and sometimes, we try to stifle that fact or hide it."
"But the profound and ultimately, most important reality," continued
Lieberman, "is that we are not only citizens of this blessed country,
we are citizens of the same awesome God."
Press reports noted that Lieberman received a warm and friendly
reception at the prayer breakfast, and praised the ecumenical nature
of the gathering "because it makes real for me what I have believed
with profound faith throughout my life, that religion is a source of
unity and strength in America." Meeting afterwards at another
interfaith soiree, Lieberman quoted from a Hebrew song that calls for
"brothers and sisters to dwell together in harmony."
Tagging along was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who acknowledged
the importance of religion in the political arena.
"We know there's separation of church and state in America," said
Daley, "but at the same time, elected officials realize that they're
all citizens right here, as well as religious leaders. Their
congregations are citizens as well, and that's why you have to build
this relationship up."
The Chicago Tribune newspaper noted that the prayer breakfast included
"an A-list of influential South Side ministers and dozens of rabbis."
Pointing to the synchronicity of the political strategies of the two
major parties, the Tribune added: "In a close race that does not yet
have a dominant issue, both campaigns have used religious faith and
religious language to build an image of integrity."
Lieberman's schmooze-fest with Chicago clergy reflected a strategy
employed by successful local politicians, including Mayor Daley. The
Tribune noted that Daley "has spent more than a decade building a
strong base of support among Chicago clergy, to bring out an
enthusiastic congregation of rabbis, ministers, priests and interfaith
activists on short notice."
Jewish organizations, many of which have traditionally supported a
secularist political agenda and are at odds with much of Lieberman's
stand on cultural issues, urged the Democratic candidate to apply the
brakes to his rampant religious posturing. Today's campaign news on
the major networks led with a statement from the Anti-Defamation
League which called upon lieberman "to refrain from overt expressions
of religious values and beliefs," adding that "appealing to voters
along religious lines is contrary to the American ideal.
Howard Berkowitz, ADL national chairman joined with the group's
director, Abraham Fox, in releasing a public statement titled: "ADL to
Senator Lieberman: Keep emphasis on religion out of campaign."
"Candidates should feel comfortable explaining their religious
convictions to voters," said that ADL broadside. "At the same time,
however, we believe there is a point at which an emphasis on religion
in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a
religiously diverse society such as ours."
The release specifically cautioned against Lieberman's remarks made on
Sunday at Detroit's Fellowship Chapel gathering. "Language such as
this risks alienating the American people. We feel very strongly ...
that appealing along religious liens, or belief in God, is contrary to
the American idea. The First Amendment requires that government
neither support one religion over another nor the religious over the
Not to be upstaged, Republicans continued their appeal to religion
and support for "faith-based partnerships" between church and state.
GOP Vice Presidential candidate Dick Cheney was in Kansas City, Mo.
ostensibly promoting education during a gathering of the Fellowship of
Christian Athletes. Associated Press noted: "Cheney, asked about
whether it was appropriate to mix religious and campaign themes, said
the Republicans were simply emphasizing faith-based organization that
do good community work."
As if he had borrowed Joe Lieberman's speech writer, Cheney gushed
about the importance of teaching tolerance "as Christ taught," but
then denied that he was attempting to "strike any religious themes."
Applauding Cheney's appearance at the Fellowship meeting was Kevin
Harland, the group's executive vice president. "For us, it's a clear
recognition of the impact that we are having," Harland told the Kansas
City Star newspaper. "I think he (Cheney) sees FCA as a key
faith-based organization for instilling character in the lives of
Also pleased was another Fellowship official who gushed, "We have
national marketing reps, but what happened today -- we could not pay
for that kind of exposure. God has really smiled on us, to allow this
Cheney was introduced by Kansas City Royals first baseman Mike Sweeny,
who came close to endorsing the ticket when he announced his hope that
Bush and Cheney would lead the country "not only politically, but in a
spiritual way." He presented the former congressman with a Fellowship
of Christian Athletes T-shirt. Cheney used his time at the podium to
target the Democratic administration for not support "school choice"
and voucher schemes.
Dr. Dale Neuman, professor of political science at the University of
Missouri, said that Cheney's campaign visit was "well-chosen," and
would "help reestablish coverage among the conservative right and show
the Republican party as the party of Christian values."
George W. Bush showed up at the annual convention of the B'nai
B'rith International in Washington on Monday, and told the crowd: "Our
nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to
the world of justice and inclusion and diversity without division.
Sen. Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, spoke to the group during today's
session and while skirting the issue of the ADL statement, said that
the Democratic ticket was committed to "the betterment of the world."
There appears to be a split between the B'nai B'rith and the more
politically conscious ADL. AP reported that according to its
executive vice president, B'nai B'rith "disagrees with the ADL" over
the issue of Lieberman's florid use of religious rhetoric on the
campaign trail. A delegate added that "Religion is where he
(Lieberman) is coming from. This is who he is."
For further information:
(Archive of Flashline articles on the year 2000 election races)
("Lieberman blames national woes on freedom from religion")
AMERICAN ATHEISTS PRESS RELEASE
August 28, 2000
AMERICAN ATHEISTS, INC.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 28, 2000
LIEBERMAN SPEECH IN A CHURCH RAISES QUESTIONS
OVER COMMITMENT TO FIRST AMENDMENT SEPARATION
American Atheists, a nationwide civil rights and state-church
separation group, expressed concerns today over statements by
Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman about the role of
religion and government, and his efforts to "reassure" nonbelievers.
During a campaign appearance Sunday in Detroit, Mr. Lieberman
suggested that the nation had lost its moral compass because the
constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion has been confused to
mean "freedom from religion." Mr. Lieberman also told his church
audience that people of faith must "reassure" nonbelievers that "we
share with them the core values of America, that our faith is not
inconsistent with their freedom and our mission is not one of
intolerance, but one of love."
Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists was skeptical.
"The campaign rhetoric about love is fine, but I'd settle for just a
promise to stay away from my pocketbook," said Ms. Johnson, referring
to Mr. Lieberman's support for "faith-based partnerships" between
government and religion. "Both major parties support schemes like
'charitable choice' and other programs which will result in the
largest wealth transfer in American history between the public
treasury and the coffers of sectarian religious groups."
Ms. Johnson also said that Mr. Lieberman "is using a dangerous
campaign strategy in adopting the rhetoric, and in some cases the
programs, of the religious right."
"The Constitution happens to guarantee us the freedom of the
Establishment Clause, which calls for the separation -- not the
incorporation -- of church and state," Ms. Johnson said. "It's meant
to prevent some of the very abuses Mr. Lieberman is suggesting,
including his 'moment of silence' in public schools or what amounts to
a tax on all Americans to support faith-based social, educational, and
recruitment programs," added Ms. Johnson.
"Neither of the major political candidates is trying very much to
explain how they will defend and support any portion of the First
Amendment," declared Ron Barrier, National Spokesperson for American
Atheists. "Mr. Lieberman's remarks are particularly shocking since
he comes from a religion that has suffered centuries of oppression.
His comments about nonbelievers are equally oppressive and offensive.
He implies that the 10% or more of Americans who have no religious
interests are somehow less American, have questionable values, and are
second-class citizens. As Americans, we do have the right not to
worship without sacrificing our status as taxpaying, law-abiding
citizens. We do vote and take our civic duties seriously, Mr.
"We believe that the separation of church and state is more than just
a slogan," added Mr. Barrier. "Mr. Lieberman's 'assurances' about
the role of religion and politics ring hollow considering his
hostility toward rational thinking Americans."
American Atheists, Inc.
P.O. Box 5733
Parsippany, NJ 07054-6733
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