Hot Stories for the Week of April 4

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Church and state, that is our hot story for this week.

And Mort, you know, people of faith, particularly Christians, have complained for years about having religion and faith driven out of the public square. Well, religion and faith are coming back, and rightly so. I mean, look what’s happened just recently.

Just this week, enormous coverage, actually for several weeks, enormous coverage of the final days of the pope, culminating Friday in the really extravagant funeral and wonderful funeral of the pope in — at the Vatican.

And before that, of course, evangelical Protestants and Catholics were so involved trying to save the life of Terri Schiavo (search) so she wouldn’t be forced to die.

Religion in, the public square in both of those cases.

And I want to make a couple of points.

One is that secularists in America have, have somehow put across the idea that if any — if you have any view that may be based on your religious views, any political view that may go back to some religious roots, then those views are off-limits. You shouldn’t be listened to. You shouldn’t be heard in the public square.

Well, think of the ideas that do come from religious faith. The idea that democracy is a natural God-given right, the idea of the sanctity of life, the idea of helping the poor and so on. For many people, it’s rooted in their religious faith.

You know, Mort, you look puzzled. Jesus Christ talked about, about aiding the poor. There are different ways to do it, but it’s certainly one for many, it’s rooted in their religious faith. That’s point number one. Their views should not be off-limits in the public square.

And secondly is the double standard, which is applied here to people who make religious expressions, comments, like Scripture or something, in the public square, as President Bush (search) does. When he does, he is pilloried for doing that, and yet some Democrats and others who also mention Scripture or like Bill Clinton (search), who mentioned God and Christ more than President Bush has, are let off scot-free.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Yes. Well, there are a lot of things going on at the same time here.

One is, look, this is a profoundly religious country, always has been, always will be, and should be.

Secondly, liberals, politically, what liberals are afraid of is that, is that hard-line evangelicals are going to impose a rigid, absolutist religious belief system on the country, are going to use state power to do it, to make this a "Christian nation," force kids in schools to say Christian prayers, even though they may not be Christian, will, you know, ban stem cell research, will outlaw abortion, will demand that evolution be banned from public schools.

BARNES: Look, Mort, but you don’t believe any of that, do you?

KONDRACKE: I do in some cases, yes, I do. Clearly that’s the case with stem cells. You know, I mean...


BARNES: That’s different than setting up a theocracy.

KONDRACKE: I didn’t say that we were going to be a theocracy. I’m talking about steady encroachment of religious demands on people based in religion.

Nobody thinks that when a liberal starts talking about the social Gospel of Jesus Christ, that they are going to impose this on, on everybody else. I mean, from, from my standpoint, would that we could a little bit, you know, make conservatives who talk about taking care of children and the poor actually spend some money to do it instead of, or, you know, in, in the case of Terri Schiavo, actually expand the Medicaid budget instead of cutting it back, you know, to, to keep people alive. You want to keep them alive, well, then, pay for it.

Anyway, look, you want to know basically where I stand?


KONDRACKE: I’m in favor of religion; I’m in favor of religion in public places. I’m also in favor of gay rights. I’m also in favor of, of stem cell research (search). And I think that the tension between — over this is a good thing, and it’s going to go on forever.

BARNES: Yes, well, it is going to go on forever. Good or bad, it’s going to go on forever.

Now, look. The ideas that you express; these fears of liberals are crackpot.

KONDRACKE: They’re not.

BARNES: They are totally paranoid.

KONDRACKE: No, they’re not.

BARNES: It reminds me so much of right-wingers decades ago, who used to think communists were everywhere, and of course there were some, that had these crazy ideas, these conspiratorial ideas. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.

And what you describe as hard-line evangelicals, I don’t think you know very many of them in the first place. They do not want to have that kind of a country, and they are certainly not a majority.

Now, the double standard: In the Schiavo case, because the president signed a bill getting the federal courts involved.


BARNES: Maureen Dowd (search) wrote about how, how he was creating a theocracy. And because Bush is a serious Christian, a serious believer, as we all know, when he invaded Iraq, somehow these stories, and I know you heard them too, Mort, were that, that God had told him to invade Iraq. Well, of course, that’s not true either.

But when Democrats do the same thing, John Kerry campaigning last year in a church, citing a Scripture from James to say that Bush was basically not a good Christian because he didn’t do good works, was Kerry criticized for that? Not at all. When he in 2000, when Al Gore and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton campaigned in churches toward the end of the campaign, campaigning, not giving sermons, campaigning, were they criticized for that? Not at all.

When Howard Dean says he’s going to start talking about Jesus Christ a lot, is he criticized for that? Not at all. There is a double standard, and it’s serious, and it targets Bush.

KONDRACKE: OK, now, a couple points on this one. First, the media is basically secularist. There’s no, there’s no question about that. They look at liberals, and they see liberals, Howard Dean in particular, talking about Jesus Christ. They know that there’s a limit to this, that he in fact, that he may be insincere about it, but that he’s just going through the motions.

They’re, they’re much more afraid that, that somebody like Bush, whom they don’t really understand, they don’t understand his religion, that he’s going to push it as far as, say, Tom DeLay might, or Pat Robertson might, you know, or somebody like that.

And there are people like James Dobson (search) and those people, who if you don’t push the conservative evangelical agenda enough, they will punish you as Republicans.

BARNES: Mort, those are pathetic alibis for a double standard that is real and shouldn’t be there.

KONDRACKE: But you should understand it.

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