Faith in America: Where do we stand today?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 10, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome to the special edition of "Hannity." Now in recent days, there is been a huge controversy in the country over the so-called contraceptive mandate that the White House has put on the Catholic Church and others.

Now earlier today in a big announcement, well, the White House tried to back it down. Here is what happened.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventative care that includes contraceptive services no matter where they work. So, that core principle remains. But if a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company, not the hospital, not the charity, will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge without co-pays and without hassle. The results will be that religious organizations won't have to pay for these services and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly. Let me repeat. These employers will not to have pay for or provide contraceptive services.


HANNITY: Now, that was president speaking earlier today at the White House. Now prior to the announcement, I sat down with some of the most influential faith based leaders in the country to discuss this issue and much more.

Thank you all for being here. I appreciate it. Let me start with a really simple premise question. Is there a war now against on religion in America?

FATHER FRANK PAVONE, PRIESTS FOR LIFE: There certainly is. In fact, our faith as Christians tells us where that war originates. The light came into world, men prefer darkness rather than light. And there has been a conflict ever since. Now, we experience a war, our organization Priests for Life, warring on the pro-life front as many of these other leaders, and we experience it every day. Fierce opposition, not just to our positions, but our faith.

HANNITY: What do you, Bill Donahue, you're with the Catholic League, you'd been in the forefront of this battle that is now going on, this mandate that the government will force Catholic institutions to provide health insurance that also allow for the morning-after pill, contraception. That is directly against the Catholic faith?

BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, I'm glad you mentioned the morning-after pill because too many people in the media have cast this just about contraception, about the pill. Look, the nose of the camel is in the tent. He wants the morning-after pill Ella. It's already included, they're waiting the approval of the FD (ph) and the rest. This about the First Amendment issue. And remember in 2007, what did he tell Parent Parenthood? The first thing I'm going to do when I become president of the United States is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, FOCA. Which if that ever got through, he could arguably have closed down every Catholic hospital in the United States because they would have been made to perform abortions. He is an animist (ph) against religion, he's a diehard secularist. And for some reason, Catholics he has particular hostility too.

HANNITY: Yes. Rabbi, I have been particularly concern about the president's treatment of Iran and Israel. The way he has treated Benjamin Netanyahu. We once made a promise to Israel as a country that we would never ask them to go back to pre-67 borders. Does that fit into what we're discussing here tonight?

RABBI BRAD HIRSCHFIELD, NATIONAL JEWISH CENTER FOR LEARNING AND LEADERSHIP: Well, I think the issue of borders in Israel is separate. The Iran thing that is interesting is that there is a tone deafness in this administration to religion for good and for bad. I think they underestimate the toxicity of faith in other countries and undervalue its beauty and its power in this country. So whether you agree with the conclusions they've reached on a particular issue or not is actually less important to the fact to me that consistently the disregard for the needs of people of faith when their faith happens not to be that of the president is a terrible mistake.

HANNITY: Why would we treat the prime minister of our closest ally the way this president treated Benjamin Netanyahu?

HIRSCHFIELD: Look, I think they have real disagreements, their personalities have clearly clashed but again, I think it's the same mistake. This administration conflates agreement about specific policies with deep friendship. There can be a real difference but the test of the friendship is when you support each other through the difference and now to come back to the health issues. If you want to actually say you respect Catholics, it can't be, oh, I respect Catholics and they agree with me. That's not friendship. Friendship is, even if we're going to disagree about the policy, I'm going to talk to you, we're going to work this out in advance. Not to tell you, here is the law and in two years, you'll be on my side or not.

HANNITY: Now, this is interesting because Bishop Timothy Dolan who is about to become a cardinal, you just spend time in Israel with him, Father Morris. And very interestingly, he requested directly to the president. He said, this is about the fundamentals of our faith, the core of our religion. He asked them not to do it. There is a story behind this. And can you share with us?

FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: The story, and he said this very publicly, is that the President said very clearly, after the meeting in the Oval Office, don't worry Archbishop Dolan, I hear you, I understand you, I'm going to meet you. I'm going to meet you halfway. What was halfway? It was you've got one year in order to get ready to violate your conscience.

Sean, let me tell you, right now, there seems likes this is about contraception, but it's not. It seems like it's about the Catholic Church, but it's not. It's about the federal government deciding that in this case, contraception and the next case, whatever ideology it happens to be supporting, is more important than religious freedom.


MORRIS: But you know what the good thing? And this a little bit of hope, is that we're having this discussion with all of us here today and the people who are listening today are able to write in to their congressman, who are able to write in to the Fox News and say, we want more of this or able to write into that White House and say, enough is enough, and the White House is listening. Good news.

HANNITY: Good news. All right. It's going to be because he called the archbishops himself and said, I'm not going along with what you wanted. Bill Donahue, you know that discussion as well.

DONAHUE: January the 28th.

HANNITY: That's right.

DONAHUE: He said, I'm sorry. And Dolan told him, I'm very disturbed because he set it up in November when they sat down. He said, you are not going to get all of what you want. You're going to get most of what you want. And next time we speak you're going to be very happy. You know, when you betray somebody, now, you put salt in the wounds.

HANNITY: Yes. All right. Pastor Perryman, how are you doing? Good to see you again.


HANNITY: Let me ask you this from this perspective. The one thing that we do know about the President's decision is that it went to him. He spoke with the archbishop. He spoke with other religious leaders. And it seems to me he had a choice. It was either appeal to his left wing base on the issue of contraception or respect religious freedom. Now, we are going to talk about the legal aspects later. But when he made that choice, what does that say to you about President Obama?

PERRYMAN: Well, he hasn't come to the black community, to the black churches. He has never asked the black churches what is your opinion on the health care? What is your opinion on the same sex marriage? What is your opinion on abortion? He ignores the black minister when it comes to doctrinal issues. He is technically saying, I don't care what you people think. I'm going to do what I want to do. So, he does not seek the counsel of the black bishops and the black major denominations when it comes to these doctrinal issues pertaining to faith.

It's like when I was a little kid. We used to have a saying that says, speak when you are spoken to, come when you are called, one of these days you will make a good watchdog. So, he doesn't want the --

HANNITY: I had the same lesson. Did we go to the same church?


PERRYMAN: He doesn't want the counsel of the black clergy on these issues. And what's important Sean, is that the church is the foundation of the black community. It's the only institution social scientists say that blacks actually own in America. When you destroy the black church, you have destroyed the black community. And he is chipping away at the foundation of the black community when he is attacking these faith based issues.

HANNITY: You are all in your own right strong men of faith and religious leaders. Everyone here tonight. There have been religious leaders such as yourself that have spoken out publicly and have said, that this is so unjust, such an assault on freedom of religion and liberty, that there are those that are saying, they will not obey this mandate. How many of you will not obey this mandate? How many of you will? One. The only one. Two. One and a half.

DR. RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: I will not. And Sean, we need to be very clear about this, this is not a question of contraception, it's not even a question of a board -- although, it does include those. And it's not a Catholic issue. This is religious freedom and conscience issue. And you know, Martin Niemoller said during the Nazi era in Germany, I didn't speak up when they came for the communists because I wasn't a communist. I didn't speak up to the trade unionist when they came for the trade unionist because I wasn't a trade unionist. I didn't speak up for the Jews. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out. We're not going to make that mistake. We are united, southern Baptists.

HANNITY: Southern Baptists --

LAND: Southern Baptists were absolutely united with them.

HANNITY: You also agree on the issue of abortion and the morning after pill.

LAND: Well, we certainly agree that morning-after pill and the board of -- are unconscionable but to have the government say that we're going to have to pay for that for employees in our religious affiliated institutions, our Baptists college presidents are up in arms. Our seminary presidents are up in arms. This will not stand. If we're all willing to go to jail, none of us will have to. But if they want to read my letter from the national jail, I'm ready to follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr. and write such a letter. I will not comply.

HANNITY: We going to break in the segment. How many of you are willing to go to jail over this?

MORRIS: Not just jail, let's go to --


HANNITY: Father Morris?

MORRIS: Let me, it's very clear. People have died for those things that are absolutely essential to their faith. It's not a question, are you willing to go to jail? But if I'm asked to do something that goes against my conscience, I better be willing to die for that. If I'm not willing to die for that, what am I standing up for if not?

HANNITY: I got to get this in. You have been on, as of this Sunday, there has been a decision by the mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg, that public schools et cetera and institutions buildings cannot be used by faith based organizations which they have for a long time.

PASTOR BILL DEVLIN, MANHATTAN BIBLE CHURCH: Yes, Sean. Pastor Bill Devlin, Manhattan Bible Church, in Northern Manhattan, large church that I pastor, senior pastor, and this is not about President Obama. This is about a cultural war on faith. This Sunday, February 12th, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott will evict and make homeless the poorest of the poor churches in the city of New York. Why? Because it's religious intolerance. They are getting kicked out, evicted and these are churches and I was arrested on January 15th, 2012, myself and other three other pastors and Councilman Fernando Cabrera from New York City. We knelt down in front of all of Bloomberg's lawyers' office buildings.

HANNITY: You're real threat to society.

DEVLIN: And I am a real threat to society. Watch out. And we were arrested and held at the first precinct here in Tribeca in New York City. And then a week later, there were 30 pastors arrested. So, Mayor Bloomberg has a war on faith.

HANNITY: And you've been on a fast for 23 days.

DEVLIN: I've been on a water only fast for 23 days and I'm going 40 days.

HANNITY: All right. My friend Al Sharpton went on a fast but he's drinking soup with noodles. It's real fast, all right.


DEVLIN: I'm water only! Sean, why I'm doing that.

HANNITY: I gave him a hard time at the time.

DEVLIN: I'm fasting here because we're willing to fast, I'm willing to fast to change the heart of Mayor Bloomberg. So, we're praying for Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott that their hearts would be soft and so we're appealing to God. That's how important this is.

HANNITY: The word repentance in Latin -- I may impress some of my Catholic friends here -- is to change ones heart, repentance, right? Alright. We'll come back. That's about as much as you're going to get out of me.

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