NASHVILLE – Calling the Sept. 11 attacks "acts of terrorism against civilization orchestrated and carried out by people living within our borders," Attorney General John Ashcroft called upon Americans to look to their faith when questioning whether the U.S. Justice Department is acting appropriately.
"Some have asked whether a civilized nation, a nation of law and not of men can use the law to defend itself from barbarians and remain both civilized and free. Our answer is unequivocally 'yes,'" Ashcroft told members attending the National Religious Broadcasters' convention. "Yes, we will defend civilization and yes, we will remain free. We will preserve the rule of law because it is the rule of law that keeps us both civilized and free."
A religious man, who opens the day at the Justice Department with a voluntary morning devotional, Ashcroft used the forum to demonstrate his religious knowledge, quoting frequently from the Bible and delivering a sermon that touched on good, evil and free will.
The National Religious Broadcasters represents more than 1,300 evangelical radio and TV stations, multi-media developers and related organizations around the world.
Ashcroft said the United States is a nation called to defend freedom, something that cannot be granted by government, but is endowed by God.
"The guarding of freedom that God grants is the noble charge of the Department of Justice. It is a cause in which all people may participate," he said. "The purpose of government is not to crush that freedom, or to override that freedom, but to respect it, to nurture it, and through it to unleash the potential of every human being."
He warned that while God gave individuals freedom, they must use it to make choices, because all actions have consequences.
To that end, he said terrorists that attacked the United States have exploited God's gift, and now it is the charge of the United States to guarantee God's gift.
"The war against terrorism is now the single overarching priority of justice and law enforcement we have," Ashcroft said.
Law enforcement officers from 18,000 state and local precincts have joined the FBI and Justice Department to launch a campaign to defeat terrorism.
"We have pledged to use every resource in the law against terrorists -- every statute, however obscure; and every law enforcement officer, whether he or she serves in the cities, the states or in Washington, D.C."
Ashcroft vowed that justice will come not along religious lines, but in spite of the terrorists' attempts to exploit their religion in order to betray it.
"For people of all faiths -- be they Christians, Jews or Muslims -- it is impossible not to see the stark difference between the way of God and the way of the terrorists. It is the difference between a hero and a murderer, a fireman and a suicide bomber, a culture of life and a culture of death. It is the difference between those who would die to save the innocent and those who would die to destroy the innocent," he said.