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Take Back America

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Dec. 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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ANNOUNCER: Live, from the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in on the De Anza College (search) campus in Cupertino, California, it's "Hannity & Colmes: Take Back America." Now here are Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome, everybody. We're glad you're with us. Thank you for being with us. I'm Sean Hannity. And tonight, we are bringing you a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes."

You know, our nation was founded on vigorous debate, and it is in that spirit that we come to you here in Cupertino, California, tonight for a show we are calling "Take Back America."

At a time when many people see America divided between red and blue, it's important to remember the principles that tie us all together. From New York to San Francisco, Minneapolis to Houston, and all the small towns in between, a shared belief in liberty and freedom brings us together in times of peace and times of war.

Almost 250 years ago, 56 brave men signed a document that defined these principals and created our nation:

"When in the Course of human Events it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness— That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed."

Those words have brought millions of people to our shores, searching for freedom and happiness. And tonight they bring us to California.

What has America become if these words no longer have the meaning for us that they have had for our parents and their parents before them? We are, as a nation, when these words of Thomas Jefferson fall on deaf ears, where are we? Or perhaps they fall on no ears at all. Because that is what some people say has happened right here in Cupertino.

Joining us is the man who started all of this, a fifth grade teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary School, who says he was told not to use the Declaration of Independence (search ) in the classroom. Stephen Williams joins us.

And from the Alliance Defense Fund (search), attorney Jordan Lorence is with us. Good to see you.

Let's start at the beginning here. Because this — this now has ignited debate in the country.Tell us what happened. Walk us through this...

STEPHEN WILLIAMS, TEACHER, STEVENS CREEK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Yes. Last year, starting out in the beginning of the year, I hadn't changed my curriculum much at all, as I've done in the past several years, as a fifth grade teacher.

And a few weeks into the year, there was a student who said, "Why do we say 'under God' in the Pledge? And I thought, current events, past events, this is an appropriate topic to talk about.

So I said, "Let's discuss this for a few minutes." After discussing it, I didn't put too much of my opinion into it.

At the end of the day that day in school, my principal came in school and said, "What are you doing talking about God in the classroom?"

And I was kind of taken back, and I said, well, and I — I explained to her why — why it came up. And she said, "All right, it sounds reasonable."

A little bit — while later, it came up that Christopher Columbus was a Christian. This was about a 30-second discussion, where I said, "Well, a Christian means you're a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ."

The principal at the end of the day comes in and says, "What are you talking about Jesus Christ?" I explained what happened in class.

She said, "All right, sounds reasonable."

Well, the pattern developed. A parent — some parent was calling in any time there was a mention of God, Christianity, or Jesus Christ, and they just took it as a personal agenda.

HANNITY: I want to put this in perspective here. Because I have spoken to you before. Less than five percent of the materials, —you would give supplemental materials to kids — ever mentioned God. There was no discussion.

You were a history teacher. You're teaching relevant history.

WILLIAMS: One of the subjects, yes.

HANNITY: Now, you are singled out, inasmuch as no other teacher had to give whatever supplemental materials you wanted to give to your students, you first had to give it to the principal. Tell us how that then became you can't give the Declaration of Independence to them?

WILLIAMS: Right. One lesson I handed out was on the National Day of Prayer (search). We talked about it for maybe ten minutes. And the principal decided, that's it, you know, and — again this has happened a handful of times and this is one of the handful of times.

And at that point, she decided, "OK, I want to see all of your lessons that include anything about God, Jesus Christ or Christianity."

So then the now famous "the Declaration was banned." Well, my kids had read the Declaration so that's a little bit of a stretch. But what I wanted to teach was William Penn's frame of government, Samuel Adams, "The Rights of Colonists" and the first two paragraphs that exactly what you read in the beginning and the last paragraph and show how the wording came from some of the founding documents.

HANNITY: It's interesting because they keep putting out these somewhat conflicting, in my view, statements to the press, the school district — by the way, which was invited to be with us tonight, and they're not here.

But it seems like there's two strategies going on. They want to paint you as some type of a religious zealot, extremist out that is out there to proselytize students. Do you have an agenda such as that?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely not. My agenda is to give students an accurate representation of history. And whether you like it or not...

HANNITY: That's it?

WILLIAMS: ... there are some things in our historical documents and in our history that have been directly influenced by Christianity and references to God and Jesus.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Stephen, Jordan, thank you both for being here. I say this as a liberal, because I am, thank you. You may not have done anything wrong. I mean, as long as you're not proselytizing.

I've heard that other — some of the things we've read in the press are that other parents have complained that you proselytize. Are those inaccurate stories?

WILLIAMS: What they...

COLMES: What are they saying?

JORDAN LORENCE, ALLIANCE DEFENSE FUND: What they mean by proselytize is that he mentions God. And see, there are people that have this allergic reaction to any mention of God.

Now, if we're talking about "Huckleberry Finn (search )" and some parent called up and complained...

COLMES: Right.

LORENCE: ... the teacher wouldn't — the principal would not say to him, "Get rid of 'Huckleberry Finn'." They'd say, "You have the right to opt out, but this is part of our history. Mark Twain was a big writer." You should confront that.

This is the only issue where they think, wrongly, that there's this mandate to go on a search and destroy mission and eliminate all things religious.

COLMES: Right. Let me ask you about this. Now, the Alliance Defense Fund, you're — the group you work for...

LORENCE: That's right.

COLMES: ... it has claimed, says in their mission statement, "defends the right of Christians to share the Gospel in workplaces in public schools, claiming that any efforts to curb proselytizing at work and school are anti-Christian."

Is that an accurate representation?

LORENCE: By — by individuals, not by government employees. They don't have a right to proselytize. We've never taken that position or...

COLMES: But you say the right of Christians to share the gospel. You believe that that was correct?

LORENCE: Yes, I do. I mean, just like George Washington and others...

COLMES: Does that mean that your client has the right to share the Gospel?

LORENCE: He does not as a school employee, no, but he does as a regular person. He doesn't surrender his rights simply because he's a schoolteacher.

COLMES: All right. What I want to understand here, Stephen, also is, are you selectively taking documents, some of which, say, for example, John Adams diary includes the phrase, "The Christian religion is above all religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, which would then set the Christian religion as above other religions?

Is that one of the supportive documents?

WILLIAMS: First of all, look at my track record...

COLMES: Is that one of the — just answer me, is that one of the documents you offered to the school that they rejected?

WILLIAMS: One of many, yes.

COLMES: So can you understand why the school might have a problem with a document that says a Christian religion above all religions that have ever prevailed? That's not the government view.

LORENCE: But the Supreme Court has said you can even teach the Bible itself. It's the context that's important. Yes, I mean, sure, I mean, ome of the quotes are pretty intense out of the Bible, that Jesus is the only way. But you can teach them if it's a proper context.

The principal here, unfortunately, got involved and got messed up with this wrong understanding of the Constitution to think context isn't important. If I see a God word, it gets eliminated. And that's one of the reasons he contacted us, and that's why we took the case.

COLMES: Well, we wish the school could be here to give their side.

LORENCE: We...

WILLIAMS: Look at my track record. In all of the years of teaching, I have had zero complaints on this issue, zero. So all of a sudden this one year...

HANNITY: You're a great American. Best of luck to you both and appreciate all you do. Thank you for being with us.

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