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Thank you, Mr. President, for a moderating voice

New York, April 28 The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA has sent a message to President Bush thanking him for defending the right of religious people "to express their opposition without being accused of being less religious and less patriotic than their opponents."

In response to question in his news conference Thursday night, Bush cautioned his supporters and government officials against accusing religious groups who oppose their programs of being "against persons of faith" or of being unpatriotic.

The president said that people in political office should not accuse their opponents of being "not equally American if you don't happen to agree with my view on religion."

Earlier this week, NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar had objected to accusations by organizers of the April 24 "Justice Sunday" telecast that religious groups who opposed President Bush's judicial appointments were supporting "anti-Christian dogma," or were "against persons of faith."

Appearing on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" and MSNBC's "Scarborough Country" Monday night, Edgar and other moderate church leaders urged their critics to tone down the rhetoric. In his e-mail, Edgar thanked Bush for doing just that.

"Your statement Thursday night about faith and patriotism goes a long way toward easing a debate that has become increasingly contentious over the past several days," Edgar wrote.

The full text of the e-mail message follows.

TO: President George Bush (president@whitehouse.gov)

Dear Mr. President:

Your statement Thursday night about faith and patriotism goes a long way toward easing a debate that has become increasingly contentious over the past several days. As you know, persons who rallied under the banner of the Family Research Council Sunday night eloquently defended your judicial appointments. However, many Americans thought their rhetoric crossed the line when speakers suggested (and in some cases declared openly) that persons who disagreed with them were not persons of faith. It was particularly disappointing to us when Senator (Bill) Frist (R-Tenn.) said that people who disagreed with your judicial appointments were "against people of faith."

The National Council of Churches encompasses more than 45 million believers across a broad spectrum of theology and politics who work together on issues important to our society. It seems entirely inappropriate when lobbyists and government officials accuse their fellow Christians of being "against persons of faith."

Mr. President, you stated quite forthrightly that people in political office should not accuse their opponents of being "not equally American if you don't happen to agree with my view on religion." I am sure many persons in the 100,000 congregations represented by the National Council of Churches support you wholeheartedly, just as many others cherish the right to express their opposition without being accused of being less religious and less patriotic than their opponents.

Thank you, Mr. President, for defending the right of all of us to participate in the political process as our faith compels--and on all sides of the political spectrum.

Sincerely,

Bob Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches 

Contact: Philip E. Jenks, NCC News, 212-870-2252


 

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