updated 3/7/2005 2:34:29 PM ET 2005-03-07T19:34:29

Guest: Darrick Scott, Paul Watson, Hidekatsu Kajitani, Irving Slosberg, Thomas Frank, Holly McClure, Ted Rall, Michael Medved, Mike Males, Alan Brown, Bill Donahue, Jeff Koyen

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Another media attack on faith.  This time, they‘re going after the pope on his deathbed. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required and only common sense allowed. 

A New York newspaper lists the 52 funniest things about the pope dying.  Does the media elite hate religion, and does this prove it?  And it‘s not just the news media that seems to be targeting people of faith.  It comes from academia, as well as Hollywood.  Tonight, we‘ll investigate why Jesus remains the media elite‘s No. 1 target. 

And are your kids putting themselves in danger when they get behind the wheel?  A nationwide campaign to stop 16-year-old drivers and a powerful new documentary takes you inside their frightening cars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TEENS BEHIND THE WHEEL”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Shocking video you are not going to want to miss. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  We begin tonight with what a lot of people consider another example of how the media takes on religion.  This time, they‘re going after the Catholic Church, appearing to make fun of a pope on his death bed. 

It comes from “The New York Press,” a free newspaper in New York City, and, on its cover, a story called “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope,” written by Matt Taibbi.

Now, here are some of things that he wrote.  He said: “Upon death”—this is what he says is funny—“pope‘s face frozen in sickening smile, eyes wide open, teeth exposed like a baboon.  In his last days, the Pope was in tremendous pain.”  Another one, “Doctors examining the body discover that the pope was not only a woman, but also Hitler.”

There‘s 49 more of these supposedly funny things in the article.  Many people consider it sick and offensive and not at all funny. 

With me now, we have the editor in chief of “The New York Press,” Jeff Koyen.  And we also have the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donahue. 

Gentlemen, I would like to thank both of you for being on. 

And, Jeff, if you could, tell our audience why you all went with this cover story and talk about it, because I know a lot of people want to know what‘s so funny about the pope being in tremendous agony in the final days of his life? 

JEFF KOYEN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE NEW YORK PRESS”:  Well, not everyone Is going to think that is funny, obviously.  Humor is clearly subjective, a concept.  Some people may think it‘s funny.  Maybe some people don‘t. 

The point of this is not always to get a chuckle out of people and a knee-slapping laugh. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, the headline, though, says “The 52 Funniest Things About the Pope Dying.  And one of those were, in fact, the fact that, in his final days, Pope John Paul II, again, a man that many people consider one of the great figures in 20th century politics, as well as religion, you all say it‘s funny that he‘s in extreme pain in the final days of his life.  What‘s so funny about that? 

KOYEN:  I would tend to think that there are some people out there that might think that‘s funny.  Am I necessarily saying I had a big knee slap on it?  No, maybe not on that one. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s funny?  What‘s funny about that?  What could anybody think is funny about another human being, being in extreme pain in the final days of his life? 

KOYEN:  I didn‘t know you wanted to start off on a political discussion right off the bat, but we could get into the role of the pope as the most powerful political figure in the world and some of the policies that his organization has put forth.  There probably are people out there...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, that‘s why we‘re here.  That‘s why we‘re here. 

And, Jeff, that‘s what I want you to do. 

KOYEN:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  This is—I‘m not blindsiding you here.  I want you to tell the American people why you‘ve got this cover story out there.  What is the political purpose of it?  What is the religious purpose of it?  You‘re here.  Explain to us. 

KOYEN:  OK.  That‘s—that‘s a little easier than asking me to defend point by point, because that is just going to get us nowhere, going one right down the list. 

The purpose of doing something like this is that most people won‘t do something like this.  And it‘s a very tough state that this country is in, where you can‘t touch the certain sacred cows.  The pope is a political figure.  To one billion people in the world, he may be the emissary of God.  But to five billion other people, he‘s not.  And he is a major political figure. 

And that makes him fair game for discussion and lampoon and even distasteful humor.  And whether you find it funny or not, some people do.  And you may find it distasteful, but that doesn‘t mean we‘re not within our rights to publish it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Donahue, “The New York Press” went on and said, here are some other facts that are considered to be some of the funniest things about the upcoming death of the pope. 

“Just before death, the pope sits up in his bed, shrieks.  His body bursts into flames.  Beetles eating pope‘s dead brains.”  And, also, throw “a marble at the dead pope‘s head.”

Respond to that, Bill Donahue. 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  I would have more respect for Jeff if he just would stop lying and tell the country that what he meant to do was to offend people. 

This idea of humor being subjective and whatnot, I mean, just be honest about it.  If we had the 52 funniest jokes about the death of your mother, buddy, I don‘t think you would find that too funny.  And, you know, the fact of it is, look...

(CROSSTALK)

KOYEN:  -- You don‘t know me very—you don‘t know me very well, sir. 

DONAHUE:  I don‘t need to know—believe me, I don‘t want to get to know you too well. 

I‘ve seen who keeps your magazine, your newspaper afloat.  Nobody would buy it, which is why you give it away for free.  Your advertisers are all male and female perverts, ACDC, switch-hitting, pineapple, upside-down cake, fruity-tooty people, OK?

Now, look, what—this is the equivalent—the journalistic equivalent of road rage.  You can‘t sustain an intellectual argument against the pope, not with me, because I would clean your clock.  And you got your clock cleaned with Steve Malzberg this morning.  And Joe Scarborough will clean your clock as well. 

So, what you are is a little brat.  Like a little adolescent, you‘re angry at the pope.  Now, isn‘t it because the pope tells the truth about sexuality, sir?  And, by the way, do you know all these perverts who write for your publication and who advertise in it?  Because somebody might think you‘re a pervert. 

KOYEN:  This is fantastic.  When I saw you sitting in the room out here, I thought you were a kindly old reverend type. 

(CROSSTALK)

KOYEN:  You‘re actually—you‘re a—you‘re a rabid, homophobic Catholic nutcase.  I had no idea. 

DONAHUE:  Yes, right.  Yes. 

KOYEN:  I had no idea.  I‘m actually blindsided by that

DONAHUE:  Yes, I know you are.  You‘ve been blindsided by me from the very beginning, because you can‘t answer a single thing I‘ve said.  This is the journalistic equivalent of road rage.  You can‘t get a job in the regular media.

KOYEN:  I don‘t even understand what that means.  What does that—excuse me, sir.  What does that mean it‘s the journalistic equivalent of road rage?  You are tossing terms around.  This is not road rage. 

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE:  Because—because you can‘t sustain an intellectual argument against the Catholic Church. 

KOYEN:  Of course I can.  Let‘s talk about the Catholic Church, sir. 

(CROSSTALK)

KOYEN:  Let‘s talk about it.

The Catholic Church is the most politically influential organization in this world, as far as I‘m concerned. 

DONAHUE:  Well, not as influential as I would like it to be. 

KOYEN:  Well, bully for you. 

As far as I‘m concerned, it is responsible for more social policies that affect more people‘s lives.  I tend to find those policies distasteful. 

DONAHUE:  Oh, give me an example. 

KOYEN:  Reproductive rights. 

DONAHUE:  Reproductive rights.  You mean killing kids?  You‘re in favor of killing kids?

KOYEN:  Right.  OK, I am not going to enter into this argument, because it‘s ridiculous to talk to a nutcase. 

DONAHUE:  Reproductive rights is really code for killing kids. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, listen, why don‘t we—why don‘t do this?  Why don‘t we do this?  Instead of debating abortion, let‘s talk about the media in general. 

KOYEN:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to go to—I want to go right now.  Let‘s look at a couple other quotes and get beyond “The New York Press.” 

KOYEN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s look at “The New York Times” columnist Maureen Dowd and what she said about the forces of darkness taking over the nation and a Republican-led government brings with it religious fanaticism. 

In an editorial, she said this—quote—“W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq, drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals, or values voters, as they call themselves to the polls, by opposing abortion, suffocating stem cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

And, Bill Donahue, she also went on to say that evangelicals and conservative Catholics were going to take America into the Dark Ages.  There are a lot of people in the media who really do believe that this country is becoming too religious.  And they‘re frightened by it.  What do you say to those people? 

DONAHUE:  Well, I think they should be frightened.  The fact of the matter is that we are on the march, we being people who believe in traditional values.  We believe in restraint.  We believe in respect for other people and civility, not like this guy that you have on the show here. 

So, the fact of the matter is, if you‘re Maureen Dowd and you believe a libertine understanding of sexuality, you are frightened by the people who, no, we‘re going to exercise a modicum of restraint.  Yes, you see, we got emboldened, us Christians got emboldened in the defense of Mel Gibson.  And then we got emboldened again during the election.  And we beat all 11 states who had gay marriage on there. 

No, we‘re really getting up to the fight.  Then, in the Christmas wars, all the secularists, all the cultural fascists who wanted to stamp out Christmas, we fought back again.  So, it‘s not a good day for people like Maureen Dowd and the other people who want to make a bogeyman out of people who believe in traditional values. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jeff.

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE:  We have got Orthodox Jews and evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics.  It‘s a pretty formidable...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Jeff Koyen, let me ask you, does the rise, the ascendancy of evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews in American political life, does that frighten you?  Does that frighten other people in the media? 

KOYEN:  It doesn‘t particularly frighten me.  This is not my battle.  I‘m just out there trying to make sure the freedom of expression is maintained.

(LAUGHTER)

KOYEN:  And that‘s what this is about for me. 

I really don‘t care about Reverend Donahue over there. 

DONAHUE:  Reverend? 

KOYEN:  I‘m sorry—sorry, Father. 

I‘m not really concerned with his marching on Capitol Hill and his religious fervor.  I‘m not affected by it.  I‘m not frightened by it.  I don‘t really care about it.  I‘m a fairly apolitical person.  I‘m more concerned with the expression and the right to express.  Mr. Donahue can go scream bloody murder against the queers all he want.  I don‘t like agree with him and I don‘t like him. 

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE:  Why would you call homosexuals queers, sir? 

KOYEN:  Oh, please.

DONAHUE:  Why would you do something like that?  Are you homophobic? 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  All right.  We are going to leave—we are going to leave it there.  We‘ll let you guys take it out into the street.  Jeff Koyen, Bill Donahue, greatly appreciate you being with us. 

Coming up next, it‘s not just the news media that goes after religion.  You hear a lot of venom spewing from academia and also Hollywood and the media elite on television. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative.  I think religion is a neurological disorder. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are going to be talking about that and a lot more coming up. 

And also, later in the show, are 16-year-olds just too young to drive?  A powerful new documentary takes a look at the dangers of teen driving, capturing dramatic video from inside the cars of reckless teens.  And as somebody that has got a teenager that drives, it scares me to death. 

That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up next, attacking God in America, it‘s not just for the media anymore, also Hollywood and universities.  Why is it so popular to go after God?

That‘s coming up next when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Great to have you here tonight. 

Now, the war for a secular America vs. a religious America is raging in the media, in the classrooms and on the big screen.  Why do elites seem to have a problem with your faith?  Why have stars like Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss and a host of others partnered with groups like the ACLU on any given day, are trying to take faith out of the public square, which even Hillary Clinton says is a good thing?

And speaking of Hollywood, Mel Gibson endured a torrent of venom after making a religious film “The Passion of the Christ.”  Frank Rich in “The New York Times” dropped this bomb on Gibson, saying, if you criticize this film and the Jew-baiting by which he promoted it, you are persecuting him all the way to the bank. 

And, of course, we had Bill Maher, who was on this show last month and had this to say about men and women of faith who live in America. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER:  Yes, we are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion.  I do believe that.  I think that religion stops people from thinking.  I think it justifies crazies.  I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative.  I think religion is a neurological disorder. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  A neurological disorder. 

So, do you think there is an anti-religious agenda in Hollywood? 

That‘s a question we are going to ask our guests. 

With us, Michael Medved.  He is the author of “Right Turns.”  And he made a documentary called “Hollywood Hates Religion,” appropriately enough.  We also have Holly McClure.  She‘s a conservative cultural commentator.  We have Thomas Frank.  He is the author of the best-selling book “What‘s the Matter With Kansas?  How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.”  And we also have political cartoonist Ted Rall. 

I‘d like to welcome all of you here tonight.

Let‘s start with you, Michael Medved.  You made a documentary on this subject talking about how Hollywood hates America or hates faith.  You obviously saw the clip of Bill Maher at the top.  I also want to read you what Ted Turner had to say about Christianity. 

He said—and, of course, Ted Turner is the former head of CNN.  In 1990, he said Christianity is a religion for losers.  And on another occasion, he said to CNN employees wearing ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, “What are you, a bunch of Jesus freaks?”

The question is, Michael, are these Americans in middle America, who think the media elite hate Jesus, hate God, do you think they‘re paranoid or do you think they may have a point? 

MICHAEL MEDVED, FILM CRITIC:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s a question of hating Jesus and hating God.  I think it‘s a question of being terribly, terribly insecure. 

I don‘t hear a lot of religious believers who are prominent people who are celebrities saying that atheism is a neurological disorder.  I don‘t regularly hear leaders of the Christian—so-called Christian right, like James Dobson, saying that you‘re going straight to hell or things are going to come down on your head. 

The reason for this kind of insecurity from people like my friend Bill Maher, it seems to me, is that there is a suspicion, very, very deep, that religious people may be right.  In other words, they have made a bet, and their bet is that God doesn‘t exist, that people will not be judged after their term on this Earth.  If they are wrong in that bet, it‘s a very, very serious matter. 

And remember that, for Bill Maher and nearly everybody else in America, religious faith is part of your personal family tradition.  Nearly everybody has either a parent or a grandparent who is religious.  So, you are reacting against that.  You are threatened by that, so that other people who are embracing religious faith are a direct threat to your insecurity in your own nonfaith. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Bill Maher also had this to say the last time he came on the show.  Take a listen to this clip. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I believe what I believe because of 41 years here on this Earth. 

And, again, I respect you not believing in God. 

MAHER:  But, Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think that‘s a neurological defect on your part. 

MAHER:  First of all, I never said I didn‘t—I never said I didn‘t believe in God.  I said I don‘t believe in religion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK. 

MAHER:  Religion is...

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s say Jesus Christ.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  Excuse me.  Religion is a bureaucracy between man and God. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Ted Rall, what‘s your take on this debate on what we were talking about before about the media seeming to be hostile towards faith?  Do you think—do you think that‘s the case?  Or are you concerned that, actually, faith seems to be on the march in America? 

TED RALL, POLITICAL CARTOONIST:  Well, I‘m not concerned about faith being on the march.  I‘m concerned about the extreme religious right trying to shove its extremist agenda down the throats of the United States of America. 

You know, earlier in your introduction, Joe, you mentioned that America is involved in a struggle between a faith-based America and an a secular America.  That was settled over 200 years ago.  The United States is a secular country.  There have been numerous Supreme Court rulings to that effect.  There is no question of the fact that this is a secular country. 

Now, unfortunately, there are many of us who believe that there are extremists, people like Mr. Dobson, who are trying to push us into becoming to look more like—to look more like a theocracy, to look more like Iran or one of the other countries that we claim to deplore because of their extreme religious entanglement with their system of government.  That‘s what we are worried about. 

MEDVED:  If I can jump in, Joe, for just a minute, we are not a secular nation.  We are a deeply religious and deeply Christian nation. 

HOLLY MCCLURE, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR:  That‘s true.

MEDVED:  We are a secular government.  That was what was settled 200 years ago. 

RALL:  Well, that‘s what...

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  And I think we are a deeply religious nation because we have a secular government. 

There is not a single issue that you can name, Ted Rall, where Jim Dobson or anyone else on the so-called Christian right wants to remake America in a more—a religious direction using governmental power. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  The entire desire is to persuade people and to change their hearts, not to enforce religion by government in the style of the Taliban. 

RALL:  Well, right now, we have the example of the Ten Commandments case that is before the Supreme Court.  That is a clear example of people in government trying to shove their...

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  Ted, I‘m really glad you brought that up. 

(CROSSTALK)

RALL:  ... into the public forum, where it doesn‘t belong.

MEDVED:  Ted, the Ten Commandments—the Ten Commandments has been sitting there in the Texas State Capitol since 1961.  No one is trying to remake the State Capitol in Texas with a Ten Commandments monument. 

RALL:  It should never have been placed there in 1961.

MEDVED:  It‘s only secularists—it‘s only secularists who are trying to change the country. 

And why do you think that, if we erase every single Ten Commandments memorial, every single cross in the country, if we take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, why would America be better if those changes are made? 

RALL:  Because not everybody does believe in God.  And we need to pull Americans together as Americans, rather than throw our faith around. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  This is more polarizing than unifying. 

RALL:  No, I mean, it‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s bring in—hold on—let‘s bring in our other guest. 

Let‘s go to Holly McClure. 

We had Iran, the theocracy in Iran brought up.  There are some people on the left that believe that we are becoming too conservative, that there are some people in government that are trying to turn us into Iran or what Afghanistan used to be.  What do you say to that? 

MCCLURE:  Well, that‘s kind of interesting because—from the left‘s perspective—because Hillary Clinton has been the most outspoken moving towards the middle with God since Bush was put into office again. 

As far as it‘s interesting to hear the cries of politics.  We are seeing more and more of the people in politics say, boy, you know what?  We better swinging towards the middle as far as faith and as far as God goes.  And for people to be threatened by people of faith?  I love what Michael has been saying, because it‘s so true.  How could this country be any better?  You can‘t prove that it could. 

In fact, you can, on the opposite polar, prove that, when people have faith unite, it unites.  We‘ve got a younger generation; 25 percent of this country are saying that they are evangelical Protestants.  So, you have got a younger generation, the 20-somethings now, who are seeking out not religion.  And it was interesting how Bill Maher pointed out the difference, not religion, but a faith.

And there is something unifying.  And it has been proven as far as faith and prayer go in this country.  And why are they so afraid of it? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring—let me bring Thomas Frank in here.

Thomas, you obviously struck a nerve when you wrote “What‘s the Matter With Kansas?” after George W. Bush‘s victory in the fall.  Talk about faith in middle America.  Why does it seem right now that evangelicals, conservative Catholics, seem to be on the ascendancy in middle America? 

THOMAS FRANK, AUTHOR, “WHAT‘S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?”:  Well, you know, I‘ll come to that in a minute. 

But the missing piece to this puzzle, it seems to me, is the role in our culture of free market forces, OK?  You earlier had this quote from Ted Turner.  Remember who Ted Turner is, right.  He‘s a media mogul.  He‘s a very successful businessman.  And his quote about, what is it, Christianity being a slave religion or something like that, this is right from Nietzsche. 

He is basically paraphrasing Nietzsche here, who is a philosopher of the right wing.  What I‘m trying to get at here is that kind of—that way of thinking about religion is typical of sort of theorists of the free market.  The free market doesn‘t like to tolerate tradition.  It doesn‘t like to tolerate value systems other than itself. 

And that‘s why it‘s at war.  That‘s why, you know, everything from Hollywood movies to TV commercials make fun of traditional—of tradition-minded people, because this is—we live in a consumer society.  Consumerism is at war with puritanism and with those old-fashioned values of working hard and saving your money. 

It‘s about consuming.  And all value systems other than the market value systems have to be swept away, not only in America, but everywhere around the world. 

And that‘s the...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

FRANK:  I talk too much, don‘t I, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, you don‘t talk too much.  In fact, you talk so well, I want to hear you some more on the other side of the break. 

Stay with us.  Michael, Ted, Holly, Frank, we will be right back in a second to finish this discussion. 

Also going to be talking about teenage drivers out of control.  Should 16-year-olds be barred from getting behind the wheel?  A powerful new documentary takes you inside their cars coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the matter with your kids?  They got cars.  Now, your kids may be in danger when they get behind the wheels of a car.  A nationwide movement to stop 16-year-olds from driving, that‘s taking heat. 

But, first, let‘s talk about the latest news that your family needs to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back to the show. 

I want to go back to you, Thomas Frank.  You were—I think you suggested that, in a free society, in a capitalist society, there‘s sort of a creative destruction that goes on.  And maybe—maybe that goes toward faith.  And if that‘s the case—and we see that time and time again in commerce.  We see it time and time again in culture and society.  And yet it seems that faith was torn down in the ‘60s.  Yet, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, conservative Catholics are building that wall back again.  Why is that?

FRANK:  I‘m sorry.  Why is there sort of the growth of fundamentalism in all your different—your great religions? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  Exactly, if there is this creative destruction that actually naturally tears down religion and...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK:  You know, I—no, that‘s—this is—this is an interesting subject.  And it‘s a huge historical question.  People have spent their entire academic career researching this, the rise of fundamentalism in all your different religious, the rise of the sort of backlash against Vatican II.  And it‘s a fascinating subject. 

And, in my opinion, it‘s a kind of—it‘s a reaction—well, I‘m not an expert on that.  What I—look, what I know about—what I know about is the cultural conflict right here in America.  And what always interests me and what constantly amazes me is that the Christian right in this country is in a political alliance with the business community, with the business class, and that these two groups really, you know, they have trouble getting along with each other. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  If I could jump in...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK:  Is that Michael Medved?

MEDVED:  It‘s Michael Medved.

And, Thomas, there is every reason in the world for that alliance to exist. 

MCCLURE:  That‘s right. 

MEDVED:  Let me mention something to you. 

There was a little movie last year called “The Passion of the Christ” that made $370 million.  It was—it was the most profitable movie of the year in terms of the investment.  The No. 1 movie in the country right now is a movie called “The Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which has a very strong Christian theme to it, plays directly to that base. 

I mean, the problem here is that there is every bit of evidence, consistently, that, if you actually will respect the faith-based audience, there is money to be made. 

FRANK:  And yet they never do it.  Isn‘t—they never do it.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  You‘re right.  And...

FRANK:  Why is that? 

MEDVED:  Because—because Hollywood is deeply dysfunctional and because people—people—well, why do they never make movies to honor that half of the country that‘s conservative? 

FRANK:  That‘s the question. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK:  No, I‘ve written about this—I‘ve written about this at some length, because it‘s the way—it‘s the way—it‘s the way free markets understand themselves.  It‘s like that Ted Turner quote, the thing from Nietzsche.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  Yes, but Ted Turner is a big liberal.  Ted Turner is on the left.  He was married to Jane Fonda, for goodness‘ sake. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK:  They all quote—they all quote Nietzsche.  This is not just Ted Turner.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  OK, but Ted Turner is not a right-wing philosopher.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  Nietzsche is an atheist philosopher.  He said God is dead.

SCARBOROUGH:  Guys, let me bring in—let me bring in Ted Rall.

Ted, I want to read you something that you wrote four years ago, during the 2000 election.  You said: “America is one of the most religion-mad, really Christian-mad nations on Earth.  The United States seems poised to surpass Iran and Afghanistan for high-volume religiosity.”

What do you mean by that? 

RALL:  Well, I‘m talking about the desire of—the desire of people of faith, particularly the—I want to be very clear on this.  I‘m not talking about people in general.  I‘m talking about certain personalities in the religious right who want—for whom the freedom of worship isn‘t enough.  They want...

SCARBOROUGH:  Can you name names to help us out here?  Name names? 

MCCLURE:  Yes, who is beginning this movement? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no, no. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, hold on a second.  Hold on a second.  I want Ted to name names.  Ted, you talked about religious right-wing people, who—freedom of worship is not enough for them. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I would just like you to help us understand.  What names are you talking about?

RALL:  People like Jerry Falwell, people like Mr. Dobson, who you mentioned earlier. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Dobson. 

RALL:  And I would say even the president himself.  I think it is galling.  I grew up Catholic and I‘m incredibly offended every time I see the president—and it‘s not just this president—it was—Clinton did it, too—closing out—closing out addresses with “God bless America.”  There is no place for that in government. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hasn‘t every president does that, though?

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  Who is it who wants to change America, you or President Bush? 

Who wants to change this country? 

RALL:  President—you know, what we have is a country that is...

MEDVED:  Who is intolerant? 

RALL:  ... already very religious.  And, as you pointed out, rightly, we have a lot—we have a lot of people of faith in this country. 

MCCLURE:  But the government is the people.  The government is the people.

(CROSSTALK)

RALL:  And yet that‘s not enough.  You guys have some 85 percent of the country and you want 100 percent.  If offends you if there‘s one person out there who doesn‘t believe.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  No.  No.

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK:  Can I throw something in here?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We all can‘t talk at the same time. 

Let‘s go to Holly.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Your turn, Holly. 

MCCLURE:  Well, I‘m just saying—you keep talking about government as if it is some separate entity.  We are the government.  We the people are the government. 

And when you hear a nation speak out and vote, like Michael has said, for the movies of their choice, for the politics of their choice, you‘re hearing the government.  You‘re hearing the nation speak. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  And let me say one more thing quickly.  They just did a worldwide study.  Atheism is on the decline in Europe and all over the world. 

And they‘re saying that, all over, it‘s proved ignorant.  It‘s stupid.  They realize that there is no point to it.  And what they‘re saying is, more and more atheism is on the decline now.  So, they‘re returning to faith.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  And there are numbers to prove that people are coming back to that. 

RALL:  But that‘s exactly the problem.  This country is a country that is dedicated to the defense of the minority.  This is not about putting it up to a vote and saying, hey, we are a Christian country.  Our Constitution is dedicated to looking out to that tiny percentage of people who are not in the majority.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  So how is—Christians hurting the minority?  How is faith of any kind hurting the minorities in this country?  Tell me how it‘s doing that. 

RALL:  Well, for instance, when you walk into a courthouse and see the Ten Commandments posted outside and you are a person who does not believe...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  Then walk by them.  You don‘t have to look.  It‘s not affecting you. 

(CROSSTALK)

RALL:  Do you really believe that you‘re going to get a fair shot in that courthouse?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  Then walk by that.  If it doesn‘t affect you, walk by it. 

There‘s things we walk by every day. 

RALL:  But it doesn‘t affect you.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  You are trying to create an America that‘s never existed before.  Because America...

MCCLURE:  That‘s right. 

(CROSSTALK)

RALL:  I‘m creating Thomas Jefferson‘s America. 

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  ... never existed in this country before, because we have had “In God we trust” on our currency since the Civil War. 

MCCLURE:  Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  America has been a very traditionally religious place. 

MCCLURE:  Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  And the point is, you are trying change the country.  Christians and other religious folks are trying to defend the country‘s traditions. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Thomas Frank, let me bring you in here.  Obviously, we have got a divided America.  And faith seems to be, again, at the epicenter of it.  You wrote the book “What Is Wrong With Kansas?”  What‘s wrong with this country?  Why does faith divide us so much in 2005? 

FRANK:  That‘s a really good question. 

But part of it is the thin-skinness of a lot of the kind of people who have been on the program here today, taking offense at every little thing.  I would just point out, Michael Medved made this very interesting remark at Ted Rall saying, who wants to change America, you, Ted Rall, the cartoonist, or President Bush, who is right now trying to privatize Social Security, right?  How Christian is that? 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  How un-Christian is it?  How un-Christian is it? 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCLURE:  Tell me how it is not being a Christian.

(CROSSTALK)

RALL:  Letting people starve on the streets is pretty damn un-Christian. 

MEDVED:  Well, OK.

But the point is that the people on the right are much more willing to concede.  I‘m willing to concede.  I happen to be Jewish and try to be religious.  There are good Jews who are also liberal.  There are good Catholics who are also liberal. 

MCCLURE:  That‘s true.

MEDVED:  I think to try to mix together the idea of religious faith with a specific political orientation is wrong. 

RALL:  I agree with that. 

MEDVED:  The problem is that the left has embraced extreme, intolerant, fundamentalist secularism.  The intolerance of a Ten Commandment memorial that‘s been there for 40 years, why tear it down now? 

The point is that America has worked pretty well in terms of our religious pluralism.  I think that ought be respected, honored and continued. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, everybody. 

What—I mean, this has been absolutely fantastic discussion.  I don‘t care whether anybody has been thin-skinned or not.  It has been fascinating.  I‘ve enjoyed it.

I would like thank all of you for being with us tonight. 

Now, coming up later, this week‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY champion, a true American hero from the heartland who risked his own life to save others.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It is Friday night.  Do you know where your teenager is? 

Could he or she be in a car with their friends?  Well, you better hope not.  Take a look at this footage from a new documentary called “Teens Behind The Wheel.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TEENS BEHIND THE WHEEL”)

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, dude, it‘s raining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yo.  That‘s a red light, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Reckless driving is the No. 1 killer of teens.  And every year, the number rises dramatically.  This is causing parents and lawmakers to question whether we should raise the legal driving age.  Now, 10 years ago Americans said 16 years old was old enough to drive. 

Now almost the same number of people say teens should be made until they—wait until they are 18 years old before they get behind the wheel of a car; 61 percent of Americans think 16 simply is too young to drive. 

With me now live from Florida is State Representative Irving Slosberg.

Representative, you are trying to change the legal driving age limit from 16 to 18.  Why? 

IRVING SLOSBERG (D), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  Well, I‘m trying to move it up, because of the fact—let‘s just look at the stats.  They just came out. 

One in five 16-year-olds, they crash their car in the first year; 937 16-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes; 77 percent of the 16-year-old fatal crashes involve driving error.  And the worst number is 16-year-old drivers are involved in fatal crashes at a rate nearly five times the rate of drivers 20 and over. 

I mean, it‘s a big issue down here in Florida.  We have got a—as far as Florida goes, the first six weeks, our fatalities are up 36 percent over last year.  That‘s a lot. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think you have a chance of actually moving the driving limit up to 18 from 16? 

SLOSBERG:  Well, I think that I—you would have a lot of 15-year-old parents wanting me to be governor if I passed this. 

So I think that this is going to be a very difficult thing to pass. 

However, we have to start the debate going. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And you‘re exactly doing—you‘re doing that. 

Let‘s also bring in a couple of other people.  From California, I would like to bring in Dr. Mike Males.  He‘s the author of “Framing Youth:

10 Myths About the Next Generation.”  Also with us is Alan Brown.  He lost his son Joshua when he was 17 years old.  And he says no to raising the driving age to 18.

Alan, let me begin with you. 

Even though your son died in a car accident, you don‘t think it is going to help save lives to raise the driving age to 18.  Why is that? 

ALAN BROWN, THE JOSHUA BROWN FOUNDATION:  I sure don‘t.

My son Joshua was 17 and he was a month short of his 18th birthday.  Josh was mature beyond his years.  He was a very mature, safe individual who just simply did not know how to handle a vehicle under adverse conditions.  He had not been trained.  And, according to Georgia law, all he had to do to get his license was be 16 years old and spend 20 hours in a vehicle with his parents. 

Of course, being his father and not being a professional driver, I have no idea how to handle a vehicle in a hydroplane situation.  So, I believe that the answer—it doesn‘t matter if you‘re 16 or 35 -- the answer is education and that we train these people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Mike Males...

DR. MIKE MALES, AUTHOR, “FRAMING YOUTH”:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, Dr. Mike Males, you disagree.  Why is that? 

MALES:  Well, I agree with the last speaker, but I disagree that we should raise the driving age, because it‘s fundamentally unfair to punish an entire age group for what a small fraction of its members do. 

That video was fundamentally unfair.  You could make that kind of video about any group in society.  We had a 40-year-old woman who was driving drunk and killed a couple of teenagers in Santa Cruz.  And if you put a camera inside her car, you would be scared to let 40-year-olds drive. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s look at some more footage from this documentary that, again, a lot of people are paying attention to.  It‘s “Teens Behind the Wheel.”  And here is a kid making a simple right turn in the daytime. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TEENS BEHIND THE WHEEL”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh (EXPLETIVE DELETED)  Oh (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But I want to ask you, Representative, to pick up on that, you know what, a 40-year-old, a 60-year-old, a 65-year-old also drives recklessly.  Aren‘t—are you discriminating against 16- and 17-year-olds because of a few bad apples? 

SLOSBERG:  Well, I think—Joe, I think there‘s four things we should do.  No. 1 is, we have to have a great driver‘s education plan in the state of Florida, which I already passed. 

In other words, in every ticket—on every ticket in the state of Florida, $3 is added.  This year, we‘re going to bring in $7 million for a driver‘s ed.  Second thing is—which is very important—is we have to enforce our traffic laws.  We‘re not enforcing our traffic laws.  Third thing is graduated driver‘s licenses. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Representative, though, doesn‘t this—that—this—that applies to everybody, though, doesn‘t it, not just teenagers. 

MALES:  Oh, absolutely.  But, like, we‘re just speaking about teenagers and what we have to do.  It‘s very important that we have the—a great driver‘s ed program, we enforce our traffic laws.  We have the graduated licensing in effect. 

It‘s—and raise our driver‘s age.  Let‘s take the state of New Jersey.  The state of New Jersey, they are No. 1 when it comes to fatalities with teenagers, on one being the best, and their age of driving is 17.  The second best is Connecticut.  Their age of driving is 16 ½.  And you know where Florida is?  Florida is 48th

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Great to know.  Thank you for being with us, Representative.  Greatly appreciate it. 

Alan Brown, Mike Males, greatly appreciate all of you being here. 

Now, coming up next, we are going to be honoring an American hero from the heartland.  He‘s this week‘s SCARBOROUGH champion.  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, this week‘s SCARBOROUGH champion, an American hero from the heartland risking his own life to save another.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, now, it‘s time for this week‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY champion. 

With me now, live from his firehouse in Indiana is our champion, Hidekatsu Kajitani and fellow firefighters Darrick Scott and Paul Watson.  The three men rescued an unconscious worker from the top of a 475-foot utility tower on January the 18th.  And each were honored with valor awards for their bravery this week. 

Now, Kaji single-handedly climbed the equivalent of 60 stories up to reach Alan Cook, a utility worker who had suffered a brain aneurysm on that frigid January day. 

Kaji, thanks for being with us tonight. 

HIDEKATSU KAJITANI, FIREFIGHTER:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell us about the rescue. 

KAJITANI:  Well, on that day, we had a dispatch on the rescue for an unconscious person.  They didn‘t tell us at first that the location—the location was on top of the tower.  While en route to the location, county dispatch told us on the radio he‘s on the tower.  And that‘s why we called for more personnel and equipment. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Battalion Chief Watson, talk about this rescue.  What were your biggest concerns while this was going on, while Kaji was going up there? 

BATTALION CHIEF PAUL WATSON, FIREFIGHTER:  Well, our biggest concerns were safety, of course, because, as you are climbing a tower of that nature, you have very few places really where you can hook in sufficiently. 

The tower was an older one.  And it didn‘t have all of the OSHA requirements that a new tower would have now.  And it made it kind of difficult and challenging for us to climb, because we had to make our own safety harnesses, besides the rescue harnesses that we were wearing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Deputy Chief Scott, what does it mean to get one of these valor awards for you and for the other men? 

DEPUTY CHIEF DARRICK SCOTT, FIREFIGHTER:  It means to me, and I know the fellow firefighters here, Kaji and Paul, we kind of look at it as a team effort. 

We three received the award, but there is many others that probably deserve it as far, as the ground crews that day, the tower personnel from Honey Creek Fire Department.  And, to be honest with you, there‘s many public servants across the nation that do heroic things that, unfortunately, don‘t get honored like we do. 

So, I think we were talking earlier that it‘s—pretty proud to wear these and we are kind of wearing them for other firefighters and public servants across the nation that don‘t get to receive them.  So, we are pretty proud. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wearing it for a lot of guys.  You‘re exactly right.  A lot of men, a lot of women have given their lives to rescue others. 

Kaji, tell me, how is the man doing that you went up to rescue? 

KAJITANI:  As far as I know, I‘ve been told that he is out of the hospital now and that he is recovering at home for about the last three weeks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, that‘s great news.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  It‘s a great honor to have you here, again, live from your firehouse in Terre Haute, Indiana, a great place right in the heart of middle America.  You all truly are champions.  Appreciate you being with us tonight. 

KAJITANI:  Thank you. 

SCOTT:  Thank you very much. 

WATSON:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I want to thank all of you for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Hope you have a great weekend. 

And we‘ll see you again on Monday night. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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