Fighting Words?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 21, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


REP. JOHN HOSTETTLER, R-IND.: Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians. I mentioned earlier the comments of our colleague, the gentleman from New York, about nameless extremist groups.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I move that the gentleman's words be taken down.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Fighting words thrown around in Congress during the debate on religious intolerance, or alleged religious intolerance at the U.S. Air Force Academy (search).

Indiana Representative John Hostettler (search) sparked outrage Monday from Democrats when he said part of the — quote — "long war on Christianity" (search) was now playing out on the House floor. The congressman later retracted the remark.

He joins us now to talk about it.

Congressman Hostettler, so, by retracting the remark, are you saying that you have reconsidered what you said and you believe there is not a long war on Christianity?

HOSTETTLER: Actually, John, the phrase the long war on Christianity was at the beginning of my presentation. It was never asked, nor was it removed from the record.

But this is a longstanding issue that has been evolving over the last several months. For example, the day before Priscilla Owen, Texas Supreme Court justice, was confirmed in the United States Senate, Democrat Senator Tom Harkin on a national radio show referred to her as a wacko. And I guess my question is, is, Justice Owen a wacko because she received the highest rating from the ABA as far as a judge is concerned or because she is a Sunday schoolteacher in an evangelical church.

Shortly after that, we now know of the bigoted comments of Howard Dean, the leader of the national Democrat Party, when, in San Francisco, he said that the Republican Party was — quote — "pretty much a party of white Christians."

GIBSON: Congressman, I know the record on that. And we'll enter that into the record there.

But what many of these politicians are reacting to is the growing power of what they call the Christian right (search). And they're worried about you more than you're worried about them.

HOSTETTLER: Well, the growing power of the Christian right — in their words — is as a result of the success at the voting booth.

And those that would suggest that democracy is the highest value in political life for some reason are now saying they don't like it when Christians act democratically in an electoral fashion. The legislation that was before the House Monday was as a result of what has been reported everywhere as the actions of — quote — "evangelical Christians" (search) — end quote — at the Air Force Academy.

The language referred to abusive and coercive proselytizing, as has been reported. There has not been a single report of coercive proselytizing. Proselytizing means, according to the dictionary, a conversion of one belief to another. No one has been able to inform me or anyone in Congress as to a coerced conversion from one belief system to another.

GIBSON: Indiana Representative John Hostettler — Representative, I have got to cut it off there, but thank you very much. We appreciate it.

HOSTETTLER: Thank you.

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