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Supreme Court justice to launch morals program

Justice Kennedy
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was "shocked and horrified" by the September 11 attacks.  

By Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Dismayed by what he called a lack of "moral outrage" among some high school students following the September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has created a program to teach students about "fundamental values and universal moral precepts."

Kennedy will launch his "Dialogue on Freedom" initiative Monday at a school in Washington with the help of first lady Laura Bush.

The program -- sponsored by the American Bar Association -- will also enlist the help of lawyers and judges, who Kennedy hopes will visit high schools to talk about core democratic values in light of the terrorist attacks.

In a rare, hour-long chat Friday with reporters at the Supreme Court, Kennedy discussed at length how he and his family were "shocked and horrified" by the attacks. Kennedy said one of his children had narrowly escaped harm in the attack on the World Trade Center, when two hijacked jetliners crashed into the twin towers.

"I thought this was an attack on the rule of law, and there should be a legal response," Kennedy said.

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The associate justice said he had been surprised and disappointed to read after September 11 that some students in a Washington area Muslim school were unmoved by the attacks.

"There was no sense of empathy, no moral outrage," he said. "I said, 'If that's what's happening in Maryland, imagine what's happening in Cairo.' And then what's happening here."

Kennedy said he also was concerned about the views and knowledge of some U.S. students, and by the attitudes of some students in Beijing, China, where Kennedy lectured at three law schools in late October.

"There seemed to be a feeling that the U.S. got its comeuppance and that we have to take our lumps sometimes too," Kennedy said.

He warned against what he said was an effort to find rational explanations for the actions of the terrorists.

"In seeking rational explanations for irrational acts, an explanation becomes the excuse," Kennedy said.

He dismissed the suggestion that skeptics might view the program as a mere show of patriotism.

"Our purpose, our mission is to share democracy with the world," he said.




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