Glenn Beck's Roundtable on Freedom of Religion

This is a rush transcript from "Glenn Beck," March 11, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GLENN BECK, HOST: Catholics, today, gathered in the state capital in Connecticut to protect their rights as Americans to freedom of religion.

The rally came one day after lawmakers in the state shelved a bill — you know what I'm saying, cancelled it, just put it on the shelf — and I wonder if they will take it out in the middle of the night. They proposed to take control of the Catholic Church in their financing.

This is not a story just in Connecticut. This is not a story just about Catholics. It's a story about God and an attempted attack on religion and our Constitution.

Joining me now is Bill Donohue, he is president of the Catholic League; Robert George from Princeton University, professor and constitutional lawyer; and Rabbi Marc Gellman, member of "The God Squad."

Where do I even start with this rogues gallery here?



BECK: Yes. You know what? I'll tell you, most people in American believe in God, but they don't — they disagree. They get caught up in arguing about theology, and we can't do that anymore, because we're all under attack.

WILLIAM DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, the attack in this particular case is not coming from non-Catholics. You are talking about two guys who are angry at the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is against two men getting married. That's what this whole thing is about. They said that we're going to have the government — the state of Connecticut, will come in and we will take care of the churches. No role for the priests, no role for the bishops, we're going to take over the church.

This is driven by Voice of the Faithful. This is a dissident left-wing Catholic group. Them and their friends at the National Catholic Reporter wanted to do this.

Now, just for a moment, consider this, could you imagine the bishops in the state of Connecticut coming together and saying, you know what, you have fiscal improprieties going in the state, you have incompetence in the state government in Connecticut. We bishops are now going to take over the state legislature. You would hear howls of protests, screaming about inquisitions, violations of church and state.

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This kind of fascistic movement, and I use my — I choose my words carefully — this is a fascistic stunt here on the part of Lawlor and McDonald to get payback against the Catholic Church because they don't like that the Catholic Church doesn't like Tom, Dick and Harry getting married.

BECK: OK. Hang on just a second. First of all, may I? Prescription M&Ms.



RABBI MARC GELLMAN, "THE GOD SQUAD": I think we're all in danger there.

BECK: Chocolate soothes me.

GELLMAN: You do not want him more wound up.


BECK: Professor George, you said to me yesterday on my radio program the same thing. But you said it's not just the Catholics. You say because of what happened in California with Proposition 8t, that all of them are going down.

GEORGE: Well, Proposition 8 restored the conjugal conception of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in California. That had been disturbed by a California State Supreme Court ruling which essentially redefined marriage on the basis of what constitutional principle I know not.

But as a result of that, the more radical forces — not everybody, but the more radical forces — who were opposed to Proposition 8 have decided to retaliate against those institutions, especially those churches and religious communities that support the conjugal conception of marriage as a man and a woman.

It began not with Catholics but with retaliation against the Mormon community, the LDS community, Latter Day Saints community, where churches were actually invaded. There were rough tactics used by people who came into the churches and started disrupting religious ceremonies. But now, it's also happening with retaliation against Catholics, against evangelical Christians, against others.

BECK: They made a — they made a list on Web sites of everybody who donated, and if you were LDS, your name was highlighted in red.

Rabbi, does that sound familiar to you?

GELLMAN: Well, it's an awful proposition, but I don't know, I find myself in the position here where I think another point has to be made, and that is: we are in terrible times. And if we're going to break out of that, the anger and the vitriol that both sides, the religious community and the secular community, have heaped upon each other, we have to come to a simple understanding. And that is what matters now is whether your arguments about public policy are good — whether they're good arguments, not where they came from, not what principles led you to believe them, but whether they're good arguments.

And people can have good arguments that come from faith. People can have good arguments who are atheists. The point is, we have to let go the stigmatization of people because they are religious or from the religious community — and I have seen this — because they're not religious.

The country is in trouble, and there are people of many different political orientations who believe in God, but what we have to let go of is this idea that because your ideas come from your faith, they're wrong.

BECK: But wait a minute, hang on just a second. I think I agree with what you're saying here, but here's the problem — people don't look at — you know, the separation of church and state meant something different. We have gotten so far off the beaten path of our Constitution. They don't understand the concept of freedom anymore the way that our Founding Fathers understood freedom.

I don't care what religion you are. I don't care if you aren't religious. It doesn't matter. Just you be a good person and a decent person and don't force your view — one way or another — down anybody else's throat.

GELLMAN: I don't know if it's that easy. Because if you believe, for example, that people should be discriminated against, or if you believe that very, very young people have no right to live, that is not a view, I think, that can be sustained.

BECK: OK. Wait a minute — very, very young people — you know, if you're talking about abortion or...


BECK: You know, that's depriving someone the right to life.

GELLMAN: Right. So, there are some views that are not acceptable and there are some views that just have to be opposed. But they have to be opposed with good arguments, not with...

BECK: I think they have to be opposed with principles.

GELLMAN: Well, those are good arguments.

BECK: Yes. But the founders...

GELLMAN: But you can't quote — you can't just quote a Bible verse to someone who is not a believer. They're not going anywhere.

GEORGE: May I intervene?

BECK: Yes.

GEORGE: Glenn, I think that you and Rabbi Gellman are in heated agreement.


GEORGE: There's no difference of opinion here. Making good arguments means arguing on the basis of principle — publicly accessible principles that many people can understand.

You made the point and it's absolutely right, that many people today have lost the sense of what freedom means, the original sense that our founders had.

But it goes beyond that. People have also lost the sense of what "republican government" or what we today called "democracy" means. In a democracy, reasonable people will disagree. Now, the question is, what do we do when reasonable people of goodwill disagree about fundamental things including important moral matters?

Well, the way we resolve those questions is not by using force or guns or even defamation or intimidation, but rather by deliberating together as a democratic people, making arguments to each other and then ultimately resolving them by democratic procedures.

BECK: We're always going to disagree with people.


BECK: You know, it's always going to happen. You're going to disagree and they're going to disagree with you, and that's fine. You live with that. You have differences.

But what's happening now is you're not allowed to have your point of view because of your religion. They'll do everything they can to shut you down.

DONOHUE: Yes, I think that's true. And this was why I fundamentally disagree with the rabbi just a little bit here. The assault is coming from secularists. I don't see much from the side of the religious conservatives.

For example, when you have colleges in California where a student goes in and prays for her professor who's ill and the professor doesn't object, but another professor objects and then that student is told you're going to be expelled the next time that you pray on the campus. Or at Yuba City College in California, when I was in the Air Force, I attended that school. There are free speech zones on the campus where you are allowed to talk about religion.

I don't see religious colleges intimidating people who are not religious. I see secular universities and sometimes religious ones, too intimidating people of faith.

BECK: Right. It's on both sides.

Let me show some video. This came from England. This is a welcome home parade for the troops over in England coming home from the Middle East, there are people demonstrating there and saying, you know, "Rah-rah, welcome home."

And then you have the police guarding these radical Islamists over there that are calling the soldiers pigs and Nazis and baby killers and everything else. They have the right to say that. However, the people who say, "Pipe down, Mr. Muslim Extremist" are arrested.

This is what's happening in America as well. Not necessarily on this level, but it's coming, where you have one opinion and you're shut out. You have the politically correct or powerful position, you're OK.

GEORGE: Yes, we've seen that all too often on our college campuses where only one point of view is represented or allowed to be expressed out loud or where people feel intimidated and therefore censored themselves when it comes to what are regarded as politically incorrect. So, it's not just in England.

BECK: So, let me ask you this question, and, I think, this is the — this is the main point here that I'm trying to get to. I believe, just as we are, men of different faith, we need to come together and people that believe in God need to put their differences aside and stand up and start saying, you know what? I'm not ashamed that I'm a religious person. I'm not ashamed that I go to synagogue on Saturday or I go to church on Sunday. It's OK.

And if you don't like my principles, that's OK, too. You have a right to answer to God in your way, and I'll answer to God in my way, as long as we're not hurting one another. But we've got to stop feasting on each other, because religion is under attack.

DONOHUE: When you have a Mormon out in California, it was The New York Times that exposed this story, and he's in the artistic community, and they found out that he was in favor of Proposition 8, he was black- listed by the gay community there and supported by the liberal left newspapers.

I'm telling you, the intimidation on the part of these aggressive seculars is absolutely incredible and it's in the artistic community, it's in education. I see it — it's something that crosses my desk every day. These people are bullies and they need to be defeated.

BECK: I think he needs some M&Ms. I really do.

GEORGE: Definitely.


GELLMAN: I think we're way beyond M&M's. But look, all that's true and I agree with that. And I think that we have to stop that kind of intimidation. I have kids that go to college and they feel terribly intimidated when they go to a pro-Israel rally on campus, because it's not politically correct on campuses.

BECK: Right.

GELLMAN: But my point is a different one. I think, in these bad times, there are spiritual people, religious people on the left and the right .

BECK: Yes, there are.

GELLMAN: Who can come together.

BECK: Yes.

GELLMAN: Listen, today, in the liberal magazine The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, a proud liberal says, "We are in need of fiscal policy, but were also in need of spiritual policy." And look, he's defending the humanities and religion.

BECK: look, here's the thing. We have a lack of trust. You can talk about liquidity and all the other problems, but we have a lack of trust. And, George Washington, correct me if I'm wrong, said that unless we have religious and moral principles that we live by, this thing ain't going to work, and we're seeing it now, as those things start to shimmy apart, we fall apart.

GEORGE: Yes. Washington said that morality and religion were indispensable supports for what we, again, today would call democracy or republican government. He said that there might be unique minds that did not need the support of religion, but he thought they would be quite unusual.


GEORGE: That only a religious people, really, is going to, in the end, be able to affirm that core proposition: all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with inalienable rights.

BECK: Guys, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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