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Religious Expression in America

Aired August 27, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The monument is rolling out of the building.

ANNOUNCER: The monument has been moved, but the debate hasn't ended. How much religious expression should be allowed in public? After all, it is a free country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we just remain silent, they are going to strip our rights as Americans.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.



And a very special welcome back to one of our real co-hosts on the left, James Carville. He has finally returned from weeks of intensive aromatherapy at Barbra Streisand's compound in Malibu.


CARLSON: You look better, James.

CARVILLE: Oh, yes, indeed. We had a great time.

CARLSON: Aromatherapy, it's the answer.

CARVILLE: Me and Bev (ph). Marge Tobanken (ph) was there. Attack her, too, don't forget.


CARLSON: Well, down in Alabama, the monument to the Ten Commandments, a very dangerous monument, has been moved out of sight, but not out of mind. Has the legal battle over religious expression turned into an excuse to bash religious people? That is our debate.

We'll have it right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

What do Bush adviser Karl Rove and your average massage therapist in Santa Cruz have in common? Not much, and yet they both want Howard Dean to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. Suddenly, it looks like they may get their wish. In the last quarter, Dean has raised considerably more money than any of his competitors, recently announcing a goal of $10.3 million by the end of the month. And he just may get there.

Dean's rallies across the countries are packed. The campaign will launch a $100 million media blitz next week. And liberals are responding to all of this. A new poll, a Zogby poll, shows Dean leading John Kerry, who is his nearest Democratic rival, in New Hampshire by 21 points. That's right, 21.

So why is Howard Dean suddenly so popular? It's not that he did a remarkable job as governor of Vermont. He did not. It's not that his views on foreign policy make any sense. They do not. It's that he hates -- absolutely hates -- George W. Bush. And to many Democratic primary voters, that is the only qualification that matters.

CARVILLE: And there is just one more thing. He was right that this war was a quagmire and we shouldn't have gotten into it. And I think that's motivating a lot of people. And this administration was wrong.


CARLSON: But he actually had no -- but he had no alternative idea about...

CARVILLE: An alternative idea is, don't get yourself into a war that you don't know how to get out of. That's a great alternative.


CARLSON: He couldn't decide whether removing Saddam Hussein was good or bad. Come on.



CARVILLE: Well, it is official. We can now declare Iraq a debacle wrapped in a catastrophe encased in a quagmire.

Paul Bremer, the U.S. occupation coordinator of Iraq, said yesterday it will cost -- quote -- "several tens of billions" -- that means trillions -- of dollars to rebuild Iraq. This is the day after the Congressional Budget Office said that our budget deficit grew to a half-trillion dollars, and the day after we learned that more of our soldiers in Iraq have been killed after President Bush declared victory than during major combat operations.

Somebody has to stand up and take responsibility for this mess.


CARVILLE: I think -- I think that person should be Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the most incompetent person to serve in the United States government in the past 25 years. Paul Wolfowitz got us into a war he had no idea how to get us out of, a war that is going to keep costing us U.S. lives and dollars, until someone actually has a plan to take over.

George Bush talks a lot about personal responsibility and accountability. President Bush, as a political consultant, let me advise you, it is time for you to hold Paul Wolfowitz accountable or people are going to start holding you accountable.


CARLSON: Fire the little people, James. That's the Clinton way.

Why don't you answer this question?

CARVILLE: Well, that's a college professor. He's a buffoon.


CARLSON: Why did Democrats -- hold on, answer my question, James. Why did Democrats in Congress sign off on this war, proudly vote in favor of this war, without raising obvious questions?


CARVILLE: They made a mistake in thinking this administration was competent. And that was a damn shame.

CARLSON: They trusted


CARVILLE: Yes, right. That was a shame. That was a shame.


CARLSON: Well, speaking of a shame, you'd think it would hurt a person's credibility to take thousands in illicit gifts from a convicted felon. You would think it might further damage his reputation if he were to brag about having friends in the mafia or finding himself accused of threatening violence against a witness in a federal investigation.

You would think all of that might damage a person's career, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong, at least if the man in question was a Democrat from New Jersey.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CARLSON: According to "The New York Times," disgraced former Senator Bob Torricelli has returned to his native state, where he is growing rich as an influence peddler. Quote -- "Bob is back," boasts the former head of the state's Democratic Party.

Unbelievable. You would think some sane, clear-minded, principled Democrat would step forward to shout, stop, Bob Torricelli is not a legitimate representative of this party.

But no, no one has. As "The Times" pointed out -- quote -- "Because of his growing clout, most Democrats are leery of publicly criticizing Mr. Torricelli." In other words, nothing has changed.

CARVILLE: Well, let me say this.


CARLSON: Come on.

CARVILLE: He didn't get us into a war that he had no idea how to get us out of. He is not Rick Santorum. He didn't go out and attack gay people.



CARLSON: That's always your -- well, the other guys are really bad.

CARVILLE: He's not a hater and he's not an incompetent.


CARVILLE: And I'll tell you what. He never was convicted in any of this stuff, even if they spent a jillion dollars


CARLSON: You always shift it to, he didn't kill six million people during the Second World War. What does have that to do with this?



CARVILLE: You can defend Mr. Wolfowitz all you want. He's a college professor and he's a buffoon.


CARVILLE: It's no secret that George Bush raises a lot of money from his big energy friends. Today, they got their money's worth.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is rolling back requirements of power plants to install pollution controls when they're modernized. The General Accounting Office said that the Bush administration based its decision on anecdotes and stories, rather than on scientific data. Meanwhile, Utah Governor Michael Leavitt is about to become the head of the EPA. And his own air quality director called this rule -- quote -- "a train wreck" -- unquote.

I think there's only one way to see this. It's a straight cash- for-favor deal. And the result will be dirtier air for everybody. When George Bush pays off his campaign contributors, we all pay the price.



CARVILLE: This is a lot more -- this is a lot shadier than anything Bob Torricelli has ever done. This is a shady deal.


CARLSON: Fossil fuels, I think everyone recognizes are a problem.

CARVILLE: Fossil fuels. You're talking about coal.


CARLSON: No, but I'm talking about oil. And I think that environmental fundamentalists, who have basically stopped nuclear power in this country, which is a clean alternatives -- but thanks for the religious nuts on the environmental wacko


CARLSON: Nobody takes them seriously.


CARVILLE: This not about oil. This is about coal companies giving Bush tens of millions of dollars in a straight cash deal.


CARLSON: This is a real problem. It's beyond whatever dumb political consideration...

CARVILLE: No, it's not.

CARLSON: No, I'm serious.

CARVILLE: It's not a serious problem.


CARVILLE: What's a serious problem?

CARLSON: Now you've completely confused me.

CARVILLE: That the air is too clean is a problem?

CARLSON: First, I can barely understand you.


CARVILLE: Our air is too clean. We need to make it dirtier.


Next: They took away the Ten Commandments in Alabama today. Should the 2 ton granite monument be put back or should religious symbols, all of them, be removed from public life? We'll debate that. Thou shall not change the channel.

We'll be right back.




CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

This morning, workers removed a remarkably dangerous Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of Alabama's state judicial building. The state's now suspended chief justice, Roy Moore, who installed it a couple of years ago, issue a written statement, calling this -- quote -- "a sad day in our country."

Sadness, however, hardly describes the attitudes of Moore's opponents. Their ferocious battle against the monument and its removal seems like political demagoguery and not anything but that.

To debate it, we're joined from New York by American Civil Union Liberties President Nadine Strossen. And in Montgomery, Alabama, is the Reverend Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition. He is the man leading the protest against the removal of the Ten Commandments monument.


CARVILLE: Reverend Mahoney, as I understand this, Judge Moore and yourself...

CARLSON: James, I'm sorry.

I hear something in my ear. I'm afraid we are going to have to interrupt. Our guests, just hold on a minute.

We're going right now to Chicago, where police are having a briefing on today's workplace shootings.


This morning, at 8:36, a former employee opened fire in the auto supply warehouse where he once worked. As a result, six people have been murdered. The Chicago Police Department extends its sympathy to the families of the victims. And going forward, our thoughts and prayers are with them as they cope with this senseless tragedy. I would also like to praise the heroic police officers who responded in a timely and professional manner to this tragedy.

Let me tell you what we know at this time, as our investigation continues. At 8:37 this morning, 9th District officers responded to a call of shots fired at Windy City Supply, located at 3912 South Wallace (ph). As officers arrived, they encountered a witness who had been tied up by the offender and escaped. He told the officers that a former employee had shot five employees. And, at this time, officers attempted to enter the building and the offender fired three shots at the officers.

The officers took cover behind their squad cars. And the offender came out and was ordered to drop his gun. He refused and again fired at the officers. The officers fired back. And the offender went back into the building. Approximately one minute later, he came back out and again exchanged fire with the police.

Our HBT officers then arrived on the scene. And based on the information that there was wounded citizens inside, they were ordered to make an assault on the building. When the HBT officers entered the building, the offender refused to drop his weapon and an HBT officer shot him. At that time, the offender was handcuffed. Paramedics were already on the scene. He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Inside, there was six victims who were all -- four were pronounced at the scene and two were pronounced at the hospital.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) When was he fired or was he actually terminated (OFF-MIKE)

CLINE: According to management, he was fired approximately six months ago for being a poor employee, late, not showing up to work, causing trouble at work.

QUESTION: Had he come back, Phil, in the intervening days and weeks (OFF-MIKE)

CLINE: Through our interviews today, we know that there was some phone calls with him and one of the owners. But no reports were ever made. And, like I said, our investigation is still continuing as we speak here. We're not aware of him having any in-person encounters with any of the former people, but that could change as our interviews continue.


QUESTION: ... any indication that some of the victims were targeted, or was it random?

CLINE: Well, we know that he tied up the one victim inside and started killing the other victims. So we're not sure why he didn't shoot that victim. That's something that, hopefully, our investigation will uncover today.

QUESTION: Were the others tied up also?

CLINE: No, just the one person was tied up. That was it.

QUESTION: How many people work there?

CLINE: Well, on a given day, there should be nine people there. So eight were there. And one employee was late because of the expressway conditions with an accident this morning on the Eisenhower.

QUESTION: Six of the eight were killed.

CLINE: Six of the eight were killed. One was tied up inside, escaped. As he was leaving, he encountered the other employee coming in. They're the ones that both ran to 39th and Wallace and called the police.

QUESTION: How did the person tied up get out?

CLINE: He got up and his hands were still tied behind his back, but was able to get out.

QUESTION: And were the owner (OFF-MIKE) Who survived? (OFF- MIKE)

CLINE: Let me just tell you right now, we have contacted family members. We're bringing them to the medical examiner's office. So we're not going to identify anybody until we have positive identifications by the family members.

QUESTION: Bill, can you tell us, did he (OFF-MIKE) these people (OFF-MIKE) or did he just walk in and start mowing them down?

CLINE: From the scene, it appears that he went throughout the supply warehouse shooting them. They weren't all in one section. They were in different sections of the warehouse.

QUESTION: We understand they were shot in the head. Is that true?

CLINE: There again, once they're posted, we'll know exactly where all their injuries were. But they all suffered fatal gunshot wounds, yes.

QUESTION: Did he make any statements that the witness heard while this was going on?



CLINE: Not that we've been told so far.


CLINE: I'm sorry. What?

QUESTION: Did he say anything to the officers?




Right now, like I said, there are shell casings from the police officers, shell casings from him at the scene. Our crime lab is going through all that. We know he had at least one extra clip. It was a Walther PP 380 semiautomatic pistol.

QUESTION: So he exchanged fire with police twice outside?


QUESTION: Before being shot himself.

CLINE: Right.


CLINE: Sure.

He's been arrested a total of 12 times. And he has -- two times, he was arrested for carrying a gun. Two times, he was arrested for aggravated assault, four domestic batteries. And then the other ones are traffic and other miscellaneous charges.


CLINE: He was a laborer working there. The building itself was very hard for our HBT officers, because it's a warehouse.

CARLSON: OK, that's police in Chicago briefing the press on today's workplace shootings there.

Also today, the Ten Commandments monument was removed from a courthouse in Alabama.

To debate it, at least part of it this afternoon, we have Nadine Strossen joining us from New York.

Nadine, thanks a lot for joining us.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: I want to read you a description of Justice Roy Moore that was put out by your affiliate office in Alabama, the ACLU in Alabama -- quote -- "In defying this court order, Justice Moore is repeating the shameful legacy of Alabama Governor George Wallace, who stood in the schoolhouse door in opposition to a federal court order to desegregate all white schools."

So here you are. You disagree with Justice Moore, a West Point graduate, a Vietnam combat veteran. And rather than just leaving it at that, you compare him to this odious racist. Isn't that kind of the appalling character assassination you ought to be ashamed of and we shouldn't have in the public square?

NADINE STROSSEN, ACLU PRESIDENT: It's not character assassination.

What they have in common is precisely what is at stake here. And that is defying the rule of law, as reflected in the United States Constitution, as enforced by the federal courts of the United States.


CARLSON: Wait a second. You could have compared him to Martin Luther King, who also defied court orders. And yet you compared him...

STROSSEN: First of all, Martin Luther King was not a government official.

CARLSON: Wait. But hold on, Nadine. You are comparing him to a notorious racist.

STROSSEN: Individuals have a right to engage -- yes, in the sense of disrespecting constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals.

In both situations, the federal courts held that the Constitution made illegal what the state officials were doing in Alabama. And in both cases, the state officials in Alabama defied both the federal Constitution and the rights of individuals in their state, in this case, the right of individuals to religious liberty, not to have religion shoved down their throat by state government, the price of going into court in Alabama being that you have to accept a particular view of a Christian religion.


CARLSON: Then why not just say that? Why compare him to George Wallace? You're basically calling the guy a Klansman or a Nazi. That's out of bounds.

STROSSEN: Absolutely not. No, no, no, no, no. I'm sorry. You did not read it very carefully.

CARLSON: It is right in front of me. I read it very carefully. STROSSEN: The common point was defiance of the rule of law and defiance of individual rights. That's what they have in common, different rights at stake, but equally fundamental. Religious liberty is as important as freedom from racial discrimination. In fact, what is going on here is religious discrimination, which is equally odious to racial discrimination.

CARVILLE: Nadine, would the ACLU -- you wouldn't have any problem if he wanted -- they wanted to put the Ten Commandments in any of the 345 churches in Montgomery, would you?

STROSSEN: Absolutely, or in a private homes or in a public park or...


CARVILLE: Or billboards. Could they put them -- every time I go to Alabama, it is, six jillion Baptists welcome you to Alabama.


CARVILLE: I was a Catholic kid from Louisiana. I said, do these people really want me here, you know?


CARVILLE: It's in a great state. But would you object to them putting the Ten Commandments on billboards all over Montgomery?

STROSSEN: Absolutely not. We would defend their freedom of speech and their religious freedom to do that as individuals.

But the very important line that the First Amendment draws is between private individual or private group expression of religion and religious exercise, absolutely protected under the Constitution. On the other hand, we're talking about government sponsorship of religion. That is absolutely prohibited, because it interferes with and deprives individuals of religious liberty.

CARVILLE: Let me ask you...

STROSSEN: Our clients were -- our clients were Jewish lawyers who did not share the belief in the version of the Ten Commandments that were on the sculpture in Alabama. That was a Christian Protestant version in particular. So many deeply religious people who believe in certain versions of the Ten Commandments did not share a belief in that particular one. And they felt


CARLSON: Well, you're breaking new ground in theology here, Nadine, because I don't think most people are aware there are different versions of the Ten Commandments.


CARVILLE: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.


STROSSEN: Oh, yes.

CARLSON: Then I wonder this, then. By the standards that you have just set down, if I understand them correctly, you must be pretty upset about the constitution in the state of Alabama, which, as you may know, refers to securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, invoking the favor and guidance of almighty God.

That sounds pretty exclusionary. Hindus, for instance, wouldn't sign on with this.

STROSSEN: Absolutely.

CARLSON: Are you going to challenge the state constitution?

STROSSEN: We don't need to because that is a hortatory statement. That is not enforceable. And if anybody tried to enforce it, it would be struck down for the same reason that another Alabama constitutional provision was struck down, the one that mandated racially segregated public schools.


STROSSEN: Under the United States Constitution, the United States Constitution is supreme and it prevails over anything to the contrary in any state constitution.

CARLSON: OK. I'm going to cut you off.

We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, you'll be joined by someone who disagrees with you, not just me.


CARLSON: We'll be right back. This is CROSSFIRE.




CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The Ten Commandments, the marble slab containing the Ten Commandments, were removed today from an Alabama courthouse.

We are joined in New York by Nadine Strossen of the ACLU, and, in Alabama by Brian Chavez-Ochoa, the lawyer who brought the case against those who wanted to remove the tablet, here in place of the Reverend Pat Mahoney, who has disappeared.

(LAUGHTER) CARVILLE: Counselor, I would assume that if somebody wanted to put a statue of Buddha or translations from the Quran or the Church of Scientology or anything else, that you would represent them with the same vigor as you do Judge Moore?

BRIAN CHAVEZ-OCHOA, CHRISTIAN DEFENSE COALITION: Well, I don't represent Chief Justice Moore. I represent two other plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed down in Mobile, Alabama. So I can't speak for the attorneys for the chief justice.


CARVILLE: But would you represent people that wanted a statue of Buddha or Scientology or the Quran translations in a public building?

CHAVEZ-OCHOA: Well, as to those religions, they have a right under the First Amendment to have those displays brought forth. So the answer to that question is yes.

Now, as to our two plaintiffs, they have -- they hold Christian Judeo beliefs dear to their heart. They proclaim Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. And for that reason, we have brought this suit.

CARVILLE: Yes. Do you know how many churches there are in Montgomery, Alabama, by any chance?

CHAVEZ-OCHOA: I'm sorry, sir. Could you repeat that?

CARVILLE: How much churches there are in Montgomery, Alabama?

CHAVEZ-OCHOA: I don't know.

But as I -- I've been here for about the last week now. And as I've driven around the town, there are numerous churches, not only in Montgomery, but the surrounding area as well.



CARVILLE: There are 345 in church, in which the Ten Commandments can be put in any of them. Judge Moore could have put the Ten Commandments on his front lawn. There are thousands of billboards in Montgomery, Alabama, that can have the Ten Commandments.

Why is it necessary that they be in a -- there are some of the churches right there that are in Montgomery, Alabama. Why is it necessary that we have to have a religious expression inside the state Supreme Court?

CHAVEZ-OCHOA: What we're asserting is that, by the removal of the Ten Commandments, that the Christian Judeo faith is being discriminated against, in favor of a nontheistic religious belief.

And as you well know, that discrimination against one religion over another is impermissible. And so what we're saying is that the removal of the Ten Commandments is the systematic eradication of God from the public square and from society itself. And what we're asking the court to do is put a stop


CARVILLE: Counselor, do you think there's any chance God is going to be eradicated from the state of Alabama?

CHAVEZ-OCHOA: No, I don't think so, because I think...

CARVILLE: Is there any danger that God is going to get eradicated, there won't be churches in Alabama or billboards with Jesus' name on it or people that pray in their homes, or people that go to religious schools, or people that go to religious institutions of learning?

CHAVEZ-OCHOA: No, I don't think God will be removed from the state of Alabama.

I think what has become quite clear, though, is that any mention of God or Jesus Christ, especially in the public square, has become prohibited. And my concern is...

STROSSEN: That is absolutely untrue.

CARLSON: Well, actually, Nadine, it is not true. And I'm interested in why not. You claim to be representing some sort of principle, and not just trying to right good effective direct mail. That's your claim.

STROSSEN: Absolutely. And we've won in all the courts.


CARLSON: Hold on, Nadine. Let me ask my question. Here is my question.

There is, here in Washington, at the federal Supreme Court, a sculpture of Moses, a well-known religious figure, holding two tablets of Hebrew law. It couldn't be a more religious expression, the United States currency filled with religious expressions. I haven't heard you say word one about that, yet you are beating up on some poor guy from Alabama because he's weak and he comports with your stereotype.

STROSSEN: That absolutely proves my point, Tucker, that it is too much of an exaggeration to say God or religious expression have been removed from the public square.


CARLSON: Why aren't you doing something about it, Nadine?

STROSSEN: It all depends on the particular context.

And if the context is one such that the purpose and effect of the display is not religious, but rather, as in the Supreme Court, to show the foundations of law, not only from the Ten Commandments, but Hammurabi's Code, Confucius, many other religious and nonreligious figures are part of that display in the United States Supreme Court, the purpose and effect is not a religious message. And the same option we supported for Alabama. We sat and the judge -- all of the judges agreed with this.


CARLSON: So Moses holding the law is not a religious message. Yes, I see what you mean.


STROSSEN: If it is in a context where it is all by itself, it certainly is religious. But if it is in a context that show various foundations for our legal system, including from other religions, including from other secular sources, then it would be permissible. And Roy Moore had that option. He could have provided that context.


CARLSON: We want to give your fellow guest a chance to close it up here.

CARVILLE: Counselor, you want to respond to what she said real quick? We got a few seconds here.




CARVILLE: I asked you if you wanted to respond to what Nadine said. We've got a few seconds left in the segment and I wanted to give you a chance to respond to what she had said.


CHAVEZ-OCHOA: Thank you very much.

What we're saying is that Judge Moore defended on the grounds that the Ten Commandments was an acknowledgment of God and a further acknowledgment that the Ten Commandments is the foundation of the jurisprudence of the laws of this nation.

We are going further than that and saying that Jesus Christ is lord that he cannot be discriminated against by removing him from the public square.

STROSSEN: I absolutely agree with that principle of nondiscrimination.

CARLSON: Brian Chavez-Ochoa in Alabama, Nadine Strossen in New York agreeing with Brian Chavez-Ochoa. We have reached the point where we can't go further.


STROSSEN: And that means not discriminating in favor of religion either.

CARLSON: Great. It was great to have you. Thank you very much.


CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.


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