Separation of Church and State?

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, July, 29 2003  that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Are some judicial nominees failing to pass the Senate because of their religious beliefs? The Committee for Justice (search) has started an advertising campaign suggesting just that.

But isn't political reality more complicated than Catholics (search) need not apply, which is what they say in this campaign?

We're joined by the chairman of the Committee for Justice, former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray. And by the president of the People for the American Way (search), Ralph Neas.

Good to see you both.

Mr. Gray, let me begin with you. Certainly, you're the one raising the religious issue here. And you're branding those who oppose this nomination anti-Catholic, which I find remarkable, given that four Democrats on the Judicial Committee are Catholics.

So, why are you doing this?

C. BOYDEN GRAY, COMMITTEE FOR JUSTICE: Well, Alan, in the first place, we don't brand them anti-Catholic, and they're the ones...

COLMES: That's the implication. That's the implication.

GRAY: It may be the implication, but I'm saying we didn't say that.

COLMES: Well, why are you implying that?

GRAY: Well, if you let me finish, they're the ones who raised it. One senator said, "Do you understand that in a country where not everyone is a Christian that you are asserting a religious belief inconsistent with the separation of church and state?"

Now, you've got Christian, you've got religion, and you've got church and state. I don't know who is raising what. That is a Democratic senator asking the nominee about his beliefs.

Senator Schumer, who opened the hearing, said, "I'm a deeply religious person. I believe we would all be better off if we behaved more in accordance with traditional religious teachings."

But this nominee's views are suspect by...

COLMES: The issue...

GRAY: He's not talking about antitrust (search) views. He's talking about religious views.

COLMES: The issue here is not whether he's deeply religious. Everybody's entitled to their religion. The issue here is whether he would impose his personal religious beliefs on others by using the law to do so. And I find it interesting.

GRAY: His record is very clear that he would not do that, and he testified that he actually urged his predecessor not to raise the Roe v. Wade (search) overrule question in a brief before the Supreme Court.

He has made it very, very clear and there is no evidence in his record that he cannot disassociate his personal beliefs from his professional obligations.

COLMES: Mr. Neas, I find it remarkable that they're suggesting in this ad that the senators who oppose Pryor have something against him because of his religion when four of them, indeed, are Catholics themselves.

And indeed, also, Pryor is for the death penalty, which goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church. So not even all his views even conform with the Church.

GRAY: I'm not a theologian, Alan, but I think you're wrong about whether the death penalty is against the teachings of the Catholic Church. The current pope has raised questions against it, but it is not against the dogma of the Catholic Church.

COLMES: Well, that's contrary to my understanding. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm not a Catholic. But from my understanding, from what I've read, the Catholic Church does not support the death penalty.

Mr. Neas, do you want to weigh in on this?

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: Absolutely. As a Catholic and a former chief council to two Republican senators, as an American, I find Boyden Gray's ad absolutely appalling.

GRAY: Too bad.

NEAS: It's divisive. It's dishonest...

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And truthful. You forgot truthful.

NEAS: And I would like to also say let's hear from George W. Bush three years ago. "I'm not trying to take things personally in politics," says the president, "but calling somebody an anti-Catholic bigot is beyond the reach."

HANNITY: There are anti-Catholic bigots, and I'm a Catholic, too. There's plenty of them.

NEAS: There's no place for that in American politics. Boyden Gray owes the American people an apology...

HANNITY: No, he doesn't.

NEAS: ... and President Bush should ask for it tomorrow.

HANNITY: Hey, Ralph, I've got a question for you. Can somebody have the view that…can somebody serve on the bench who's pro-life, in your view? Would you ever support anybody or people that have the view that Roe v. Wade is bad law and morally wrong? Are they unfit to serve?

NEAS: Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans...

HANNITY: I didn't ask you what they said. I'm asking what you say. What do you say?

NEAS: ... have already confirmed about 135 so-called pro-life judges.

HANNITY: But the fact is, Ralph…the fact is we're having presidential candidates say that they'll never vote for anybody who doesn't support Roe v. Wade. So, what they're saying when they say that is Christians and Catholics need not apply, aren't they? That's their litmus test.

NEAS: If you would calm down and be a little civil for just a second.

HANNITY: Well, maybe you'd learn something.

NEAS: Our position at People for the American Way is to oppose those nominees of an extreme right-wing judicial philosophies.

HANNITY: OK. Right wing…I want to talk to C. Boyden Gray. Because I've heard enough from you.

NEAS: ... in opposition to reproductive rights…many other issues.

HANNITY: What the left in America is saying, and this is their litmus test, that if you're a Catholic or if you're a Christian, when they say under no circumstances will they support you, they're saying Catholics and Christians need not apply. That's what they are saying?

NEAS: Absolutely not.

HANNITY: C. Boyden?

GRAY: What I'd like to say is the Catholic League has said just in the last few days that, given the mind-set of the senators, it's virtually impossible for a practicing Catholic to confirm.

COLMES: I'm sorry. We're just out of time. We thank you very much for being with us, both of us.

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