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Hannity

Should A Church Offer Sanctuary to Soldiers Who Object to Serving in Iraq?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Prompted by a Fort Lewis Army officer's decision to refuse to fight in Iraq, this Tacoma, Washington, church has declared itself a sanctuary for the servicemen and women who also are refusing us to go to war.

Joining us now is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Tacoma , Reverend Monty Smith.

Reverend, thank you for being with us.

The person we mentioned, we referred to, was Ehren Watada, 1st Lieutenant from Fort Lewis who doesn't want to go to Iraq, refusing to serve. How did this lead to you doing what you're doing?

REV. MONTY SMITH, FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, TACOMA, WASHINGTON: Well, it was part of the context that we felt there was just an overriding pastoral need in our community to speak out as a church networked with other communities of faith and other organizations, veteran organizations. And in the end we were the church that said, "We can do this and we will."

COLMES: How is the war inconsistent with Christian teaching?

REV. SMITH: Well, it's real clear that in our denomination, the rules and principles are that war is a violation of the teachings of Christ. Last November our bishops issued a worldwide statement asking United Methodist bishops all over — United Methodists all over the world to stand up and make public statements in public positions that would be viewed as advancing the cause of peace.

So we're great traditionalists here. We're doing a very old- fashioned thing.

COLMES: Are there good wars and bad wars?

REV. SMITH: You know, not in our world. Not in the religious world. It's real clear that war is simply a violation of the teachings of Christ.

COLMES: Is this an act of civil disobedience on your part, is that how you view it?

REV. SMITH: No, we view this as a matter of faith and way to support our troops. We are surrounded by military bases and this is a way to dignify the military uniform...

LOWRY: Reverend, it's Rich Lowry. Sorry, we have a short segment. I want to get in here.

REV. SMITH: Rich, sure.

LOWRY: Look, I appreciate your concern for justice. As a Christian I share it. Just let me ask you, did Saddam Hussein preside over a just order in Iraq?

REV. SMITH: Well, for us, Rich, the offer of sanctuary is an offer of a pastoral need...

LOWRY: No Reverend, sorry, I've got to — I've got to — are you going to answer the question? Did Saddam Hussein preside over a just order in Iraq? Please answer the question.

REV. SMITH: Well, again, there's no just war in our view. And...

LOWRY: Sir, that's not what I'm asking you. Reverend, please answer the question if you can. If for some reasons your principles say you can't answer the question, just tell me. But did Saddam Hussein preside over a just order in Iraq?

REV. SMITH: Well, it was not a just order, was it? And war...

LOWRY: Of course it wasn't. And why did it change?

REV. SMITH: Well...

LOWRY: It changed because of the U.S. military. Let me ask you another question. I'm sorry to interrupt because you didn't answer the first question. Please answer this one.

There are various forces competing for control in Iraq. Please tell me which is most allied with justice and Christian principles: Al Qaeda, the former Ba'athists or the United States military? Which of those three forces?

REV. SMITH: Well, Rich, you're framing the issue in a way that doesn't allow the faith community's voice in this. Ours is a faith and pastoral stance. It's not a...

LOWRY: You're avoiding the question.

REV. SMITH: No, it's not...

LOWRY: Look, you have an opinion on all sorts of issues, I'm sure. Why don't you have an opinion on which of those three forces is in favor of justice in Iraq: Al Qaeda, the Ba'athists or the United States military? Which one? Why can't you say?

REV. SMITH: Yes, so Rich, the issue that we bring to the table is the issue of faith and pastoral care for troops around us. Troops are returning from Iraq having undergone extraordinary transformations of conscience, consciousness running into issues of morality...

LOWRY: Look, we're all aware that war is a difficult thing. But you're not even accurately representing your own church's guidelines. They — your church's guide — social guidelines recognize that Christians can support war in cases of aggression, tyranny and genocide. And we were dealing with an aggressive tyrant in Iraq. It's almost a three-fer.

COLMES: And unfortunately, we've got to — we've got to break here. We thank you, Reverend, for being on with us.

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