Page 6


Continued from page 7 of the values my Party stands for. I want to talk about why millions of people of faith from all political persuasions often find themselves in strong disagreement with the Christian Coalition. While we may disagree on a range of things, on one point I’m sure we do agree: Whether you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim or practice another faith, to draw on spiritual teachings to guide your public commitments is both appropriate and desirable. President Clinton last week said that our public life may have become too secular, and he’s right. Separation of church and state means that we, as Americans, are free to practice our faith without government coercion or interference. Our forefathers and mothers fled to these shores, in part, to escape religious persecution. No American can be kept out of the political process because of their religion. And no American can be kept out of the political process because he or she does not practice religion. But, as the President said, freedom of religion doesn’t mean that we must be free from religion. As Thomas Jefferson understood so well, the separation of church and state was intended to strengthen the practice of religion. And we as a society can only profit from the moral and ethical foundation that religion provides. But let us also acknowledge that we may read the scripture and answer its call in different ways. Only God possesses absolute truth. None of us may declare other points of view as invalid or irreligious. From the depths of our conviction, we must always remember the guideline: Judge not lest ye be judged. And let us say that while religious motivation is appropriate, it is wrong to use religious authority to coerce support in the public arena. Most Americans are troubled by the implication that religious values dictate one position or one path in politics, public policy or private belief. Throughout our history as a people, tolerance has been inseparably linked with faith, and we must fight to preserve tolerance in our hearts and in our public debate. The President said last Monday [September 6], and I quote: “The thing that has kept us together over time is that our Constitution and Bill of Rights gives us all the elbow room to seek to do God’s will in our own life and that of our families and our communities … There will always … have to be some room for Americans of good faith to disagree.” I an very proud of how our Party is fighting in the tradition and spirit of our religious heritage for the values at the heart of our culture; striving for justice, strengthening our families, generating economic opportunity for each and every American, and again creating a broad sense of responsibility and community across this great nation. I am a Christian and I am a Democrat, and the principles I embrace and the causes I champion are very much rooted in the values and traditions of my faith. Let me tell you about those roots in my own life. My father, a refugee from post-war Europe, was brought to this country and a better life by the Brethren Church. My father-in-law, Bob Dodds, who is here today, is a lay Baptist minister. My wife, Degee, who is also here, encourages my own sense of faith every day. And it is that background which has helped shaped my faith, and my beliefs. Because of that faith, I believe in helping the needy. Because of that faith, I believe in working in the service of others. Because of that faith, I believe fiercely in the value of work. Because of that faith, I believe in working to create a more tolerant society. And because of that faith, I believe in the sanctity, of the family and the support and nurturing derived first and foremost from the family. So this year I was proud to champion a budget that raised the earned income tax credit to help lift working families above the poverty line.’ It’s about rewarding work. It’s about strengthening families. It was a budget that asked of most Americans just a dime a day, for this tax credit and for other initiatives, from immunizations for our children to empowerment zones for our cities and better health care for rural America. And at the same time, it was a first step toward unburdening our children and grandchildren of the crushing debt that threatens their future. I am also proud that earlier this year we fought for and passed the Family and Medical Leave Act, because nobody should have to choose between a job and caring for a sick family member or a new child. Today, we are fighting for a health care system that works again. We are determined to relieve families of the fear of inadequate health care, or the financial catastrophe that could result from a single illness or accident. I am proud that the President has made fighting the battle against drugs and violence in our neighborhoods and in our schools a high priority. He is reaching across party lines and old divisions to make the streets where our children play safer. I am proud that we are working in the spirit of serving others one of the foundations of our religious tradition with a national service bill that gives Americans the chance to help rebuild their communities. I mention these issues in some detail because you are yourselves branching out. You are working on the issues which you now realize your members, like the rest of American families, consider the highest priority the economy and jobs, welfare, the budget deficit and crime. That is your right. Our Party has always been at the forefront on the bread and butter issues which can make our families strong. But I must tell you that the Christian Coalition’s decision to attack the President’s economic plan and much of the rest of his agenda and especially the manner of that attack has been a great disappointment. When you call yourselves the “Christian Coalition” and savagely attack members of Congress for their point of view, implicit in that attack is the message that those who disagree have taken an unChristian position. I believe with all my heart that if there were a Christian position on the President’s budget, it was to support it. But I am not going to stand here and tell you that you are bad Christians for opposing it. And frankly, when I disagree with you, you had better not tell me that I’M a bad Christian. We think you should have been fighting beside us to enact more WIC funding, and Head Start initiatives that everyone agrees save and improve the lives of our children. We think you should have been fighting with us to restore tax fairness and enact a tax cut for 20 million working families. For record deficit reduction, and the lower interest rates that have come with it. Perhaps your opposition was inevitable, given the politics of the Republican Party and your desire to play a larger and larger role in its future. But I believe the effect of your actions gave aid and comfort to the economic elites in our society those who stood to benefit from the status quo. And I fear it came at the expense of the economic interests of the working families who over whelmingly make up both of our ranks. Continued on page 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15