Guest: Reza Aslan, Bobbie Patray, Tony Campolo, Richard Land, George Felos, Tony Campolo, Richard Land, Roy Moore, Tony Perkins, Mikey Weinstein, Jerry Sutton, Nicolle Devenish, Albert Pennybacker
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: From the heart of the Bible Belt in Nashville,
Tennessee, live from Two Rivers Baptist Church, let‘s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Nashville, Tennessee.
And this is the HARDBALL Church Tour.
Some God‘s should God‘s law be man‘s law at all? Or should this nation be governed without any mention whatever of God?
We‘re gathered here tonight to talk about a deep division in this country over the proper role of religion in our country‘s electoral politics and, more than that, the recognition of God in our democratic process of government.
We‘ve brought together some people at the center of the battle over the role of religion in politics.
Let‘s begin with our host tonight, who has been wonderful, the pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church, Dr. Jerry Sutton.
Should what is said here, Doctor, by you and others, right here at this great church here in Nashville on Sunday, matter to how people vote on Tuesday?
DR. JERRY SUTTON, PASTOR, TWO RIVERS BAPTIST CHURCH: The short answer is yes.
Our conviction is that the Bible is not based on mythology. It is based on God‘s revelation. And, as such, what he says is the dictates of our life. And so, I have a mandate from God to say, this is what God thinks about these issues.
Now, as far as endorsing a candidate, I don‘t do that. If they ask me how I‘m going to vote, I‘ll tell them that. When it comes to the great moral issues of the day, I—it would be sinful for me to keep quiet on those things.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever stand here and tell the people how you were going to vote this last election?
SUTTON: Only once or twice.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s enough, isn‘t it? And do you think that had an impact on how the people in your congregation, who look up to you morally, voted?
SUTTON: I would think probably so.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that—that you should encourage people to believe, as a pastor, that the way they vote is either right or wrong morally?
MATTHEWS: In other words, there‘s an immoral way to vote and a moral way to vote, a good way to vote or a bad way to vote? Or is that up to them how they interpret that?
SUTTON: It depends on what the issues are. For example...
MATTHEWS: Well, if they voted for—let me ask you. The presidential election. It‘s quite simple. That was a close election last time in terms of Ohio could have decided it, I guess.
MATTHEWS: Most people voted for the president. If they voted for John Kerry, would they be sinful?
SUTTON: I think it would be unwise. I‘m not sure I would call them sinful.
The big issue is, go vote. That‘s first of all. Secondly, for us, we were looking at what are the issues and what are the platforms and which platform lines up closest with our convictions? And, in this situation, it happened to be the Republican platform.
MATTHEWS: How many people—raise your hands if you voted according to the way the pastor voted?
MATTHEWS: Hah! I would say you have some influence on Tuesday.
SUTTON: Well, I hope I did, to be honest with you.
Reverend Al Pennybacker, you have got a different point of view.
REV. ALBERT PENNYBACKER, CLERGY AND LAITY NETWORK: Yes.
MATTHEWS: You‘re with the Clergy and Laity Network. Do you agree with this kind of influence of Sunday preaching on Tuesday voting?
PENNYBACKER: I think Sunday preaching ought to inform, but not dictate.
MATTHEWS: Well, let didn‘t dictate.
PENNYBACKER: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s be fair. Informed.
PENNYBACKER: It ought to be informing. It ought to be instructive. It ought to help people think through what are the issues involved. And I suspect we agree on a lot of that.
But I think that our point of view from a progressive religious heritage is that people can think and make decisions and that God‘s spirit is in that process.
It has historically been a fact that Democrats, white or black, go to black churches and ask for support weekend before an election. Is that OK?
PENNYBACKER: Ask for support...
MATTHEWS: On Tuesday.
PENNYBACKER: Right. Go to black churches and ask for that? That‘s the heritage of the black church in this country, when they were excluded from political life. And to be treated in an embracing way was exactly right for...
MATTHEWS: So, when Al Gore or John Kerry coming...
MATTHEWS: ... saying on Sunday, vote for me on Tuesday is a proper use of religion?
PENNYBACKER: We don‘t want to do—we don‘t want to take this attention to the African-American community and twist it into some principle, because that is not what is going on.
MATTHEWS: Well, but what do you get out of that reality?
PENNYBACKER: What‘s going on is an attention to issues in our common life that are...
MATTHEWS: OK. During to the anti-war movement and the Vietnam War movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Reverend Sloane Coffin and others were leading liberals against the war in Vietnam. And they used their cloth and their collar to make that case. Was that OK?
PENNYBACKER: Because this was a profound issue about war and peace, just like the issue about Iraq is now.
MATTHEWS: What about Reverend Sutton, who believes that abortion rights or a gay marriage is a profound moral issue? Is he allowed to—or is she allowed to stand out there and say, this is what I believe; I would like you to sit—look through it the way I look through it?
PENNYBACKER: Of course he has a right to say that. And I‘ll defend his right to say it. I‘ll also assume he defends my right not to agree with him. And that‘s profoundly American.
SUTTON: I believe everybody has got a right to be wrong.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to...
PENNYBACKER: OK. You were—when you voted one way, you were wrong.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go right now—you are one of the most influential voices in the country. You are not the guy in the movie. You‘re not the guy in “Psycho.” You are a powerhouse politically.
In the issue of the Schiavo case, which we‘ll get to in a few minutes, in the issue of the filibusters against the president‘s appointments for judges, you‘ve had a profound role. You‘ve taken a religious community of evangelicals, who you represent in so many powerful ways, and say, get out involved. Get involved politically. Go to Washington. Get those senators shook up. Take action. Is that good?
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Chris, first, you‘re doing just what we want to do. We‘re bringing the church into the process. You‘re having this program here tonight in a church.
The church historically has been at the center of these important debates. And we‘re not trying to exclude anyone of any persuasion. But what we‘re saying is that Christians, evangelicals, those people of faith have every right to participate in this process. And we‘re seeing a growing hostility, really government-sponsored, like what we saw from the Ten Commandments decision yesterday, towards a Judeo-Christian heritage in this country.
MATTHEWS: Are you happy with that decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, 5-4, to let that replica of the Ten Commandments stand outside that Texas federal building, building?
PERKINS: Am I happy with that case? I think that case was a marginal victory.
PERKINS: It was—but, in its essence, it was marginal, because what it said, ruling against the Kentucky case, is that the commandments can stand if they‘re absent of any moral or any religious connection.
And what they advanced is not neutrality, but government hostility toward religion.
MATTHEWS: In other words, if it has a religious significance, they‘re saying it shouldn‘t be there.
PERKINS: If that was the motive.
MATTHEWS: The Kentucky case, they said that regarding the Ten Commandments within the courtroom.
MATTHEWS: Reverend Pennybacker, I have to ask you the question. I don‘t know how far you go in the other direction.
But Justice John Paul Stevens—I believe he was a Republican appointment—said the other day in a dissenting opinion, which stunned me, he said the ideal is that the constitutional ideal, he called it, is that government must remain neutral, not simply between Episcopalian and evangelical or Jewish or Christian or Protestant or Roman Catholic. It must remain neutral between religion and irreligion. In other words, there should be no religious aspect to our public life. Do you accept that view?
PENNYBACKER: This is a profoundly open and inclusive and level playing field country with regard to religion and with regard to irreligion.
MATTHEWS: That should be proper?
PENNYBACKER: Religion that can‘t be forced on anybody by the government or anybody else.
MATTHEWS: Should the government be godless?
PENNYBACKER: Should the government be godless?
MATTHEWS: In other words, make no reference to God whatever, period, drop it all?
PENNYBACKER: I agree with Abraham Lincoln. It is government for the people, of the people and by the people.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, then. The Constitution—the Declaration of Independence, in which Lincoln brought back into public life and said that was the founding document—Lincoln said—Lincoln talked about this.
I‘m trying to remember this. He brought back the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence had the line in it, we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.
MATTHEWS: Would that pass muster with you today in the Congress?
PENNYBACKER: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: If that line was—in other words, we recognize a creator?
PENNYBACKER: It is in an historic setting with people...
MATTHEWS: No, but if were to pass that exact same language. The exact same language was in a bill today before the Congress. We are endowed by our creator as an act of Congress. Would that pass with you today?
PENNYBACKER: I think we would debate that and we would try to find a meaning to it that would be common ground.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the American people would accept the phrase creator in any bill passed by Congress today?
PENNYBACKER: I doubt it.
MATTHEWS: Well, should they?
PENNYBACKER: I think, if it is government of the people, for the people and by the people...
MATTHEWS: In other words, we have changed our values since Philadelphia in 1776?
PENNYBACKER: No. We‘ve not changed our values. We‘ve begun to understand that we are a religiously diverse country and that we have different understandings of the nature of God and we can‘t inflict this on each other.
MATTHEWS: Mikey Weinstein, I want to bring you in here, because you‘re shaking your head.
What‘s your view on this? Should God be mentioned in the public life?
Should we say in God we trust? Should there be chaplains in Congress?
Should we have a federal holiday on December 25? Guess why?
MICHAEL “MIKEY‘ WEINSTEIN, CRITIC OF AIR FORCE ACADEMY: OK. Chris...
MATTHEWS: Should we have that as a holiday?
MATTHEWS: I think I know why that is a holiday. Is that OK with you?
WEINSTEIN: I want to try to answer the five questions in one.
MATTHEWS: Well, the basic question is, should God be mentioned in public life?
WEINSTEIN: We‘re Americans. And the concept of religion is inextricably intertwined with being American.
The part—that we‘re having the show today means we have the free marketplace of ideas. None of that bothers me or the movement that I‘m leading. What bothers me is when religion steps over the line and inextricably intertwines itself with the machinery of the state, like, in my case, with the United States Air Force. And that‘s—that‘s what bothers me.
MATTHEWS: Proselytizing at the academy.
MATTHEWS: Too much of it?
WEINSTEIN: Way too much.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll talk about that later.
MATTHEWS: Do you want God any more in our public life than he is today, in terms of reference, in our documents, in our currency, in our chaplains, in our Congress? Do you want more?
SUTTON: What I don‘t want is for the whole reference of God to be removed. Four references in our Declaration of Independence refer strictly to our creator, the one who is divine providence. And why remove that? I mean, that‘s our foundation. That‘s our heritage. We might as well get over it.
PENNYBACKER: We‘re talking about a faith difference here. I don‘t think we‘re going to bring God into government or keep God out. God is not someone we can appropriate for our agenda. And so we‘re going to conduct government, I hope, responsible to the ways of God and sensitive to God‘s presence as we move forward together.
PERKINS: But that‘s the issue. That‘s what‘s at issue.
There are those that want to exclude even the acknowledgment of God. Seventy—over 70 percent of the American people have no problem with the Ten Commandments being on public property. But yet five members of the Supreme Court have decided for the rest of the nation that that is not going to happen if in any way their intent or motives can be questioned.
MATTHEWS: OK, 82 percent of the American people thought—a major poll—they didn‘t like the way the Congress and the president got involved in that Terri Schiavo case. They didn‘t like the look or the smell of it. We‘re going to come back and talk about that.
At the top of the hour, we‘ll be bringing, by the way, the president -
· the president of the United States‘ address to the nation on the war in Iraq. That‘s at the top of the hour.
But up next, the lawyer for Michael Schiavo, the man, of course, who felt the full power of conservative moral outrage.
And on Monday, the Supreme Court, as we said, by a one-judge decision, upheld the constitutionality of the display of the Ten Commandments in some public places, not others. We‘ve got the major figure in that Ten Commandments dispute, Judge Roy Moore, coming in, in just a few minutes.
You‘re watching the HARDBALL Church Tour from Nashville, only on
MATTHEWS: Coming up on the HARDBALL Church Tour, a man at the center of the biggest battle in the culture wars, the attorney for Terri Schiavo‘s husband, Michael—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back here at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, what a great place. This audience has been fabulous.
Come on up. Stand up.
George Felos, you had a very hot seat job for a long time. You were lawyer for Michael Schiavo, the husband to Terri Schiavo.
Give me your firsthand—and take a couple minutes—your firsthand experience with the moral outrage of the religious conservative of this country.
GEORGE FELOS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL SCHIAVO: When you‘re an attorney representing a client and you see your client demonized, not only by political oppositions on an ideological basis, but also religious groups chime in, it is a very daunting thing.
It was very hard on him. It was very hard on our case. And it was—it was—it was nip and tuck. We didn‘t know how this case was—was going to go. And I think the most—one of the most disturbing things for me was to hear such lies and falsehoods out of the preachers opposed to this case.
MATTHEWS: Give me—well, clarify record, as you can.
FELOS: Well, I heard preachers say, we can‘t remove feeding tube on the basis of the testimony of just the husband, when it was the testimony of two other witnesses.
I heard people saying, she‘s never had a test. She‘s never had a— she‘s never had a CAT scan. And yet, she had probably the most comprehensive testing of any patient. It seemed to me that the opposition in this case from religious groups was really not spiritually based, but ideologically, ideologically based.
MATTHEWS: What is the distinction? What is the distinction between spiritual and ideological?
FELOS: Ideology is a point of view that you want to—that you want to promote for a particular gain. And I would say, it is not, it may not be spiritually based.
I mean, I don‘t know where in the scripture it says, thou shalt be treated against your will. So, I really—in the Schiavo case, I think there was a distinction between a spiritual heartfelt opposition—and there may have been. There may have been among many people, because it is a complex issue. It‘s a difficult issue.
But at least what we saw, what we saw in this case was an ideological opposition promoted by many religious groups.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much for coming.
Tony Perkins, I want you to respond to what you just heard.
PERKINS: I don‘t see the distinction between one‘s religion and ideology. I mean, what we see are people that were acting out of deep compassion and conviction.
This became a national issue, not only because of Michael‘s position, but the family. The family invited many other people in this nation to be a part of this. They took this to a national level. And I think this nation had it set—set by, including our political leaders, and not responded where we saw a woman who it was in question whether or not she wanted a feeding tube to be removed, for her to die and starve right before the eyes of the American people.
I think we would be—that is a part of the coarsening of the American society that I for one was not willing to participate by sitting on the side.
FELOS: Well, there‘s a difference between religion and ideology. I would say religion is a search for truth in a very personal way. Ideology is putting forth a position or a viewpoint. And I think there is a...
PERKINS: ... based on truth. And that‘s where we come from, is that all life is valuable and that innocent life should be protected.
MATTHEWS: Do we think as a country...
FELOS: But this is...
MATTHEWS: Let me—let me try to bring this up to date. We have had a diagnosis, an autopsy. We‘ve gone through all this information. We‘ve gotten this scientific information.
Tony, does that change your view?
PERKINS: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: How so?
PERKINS: Based on what we know, even if she was brain-dead, according to the autopsy reports, she still was living and breathing.
And to—to pull out a feeding tube, to deny her that nourishment that would keep her alive, I think, again, is a part of the coarsening of the society that I don‘t think we want to—we don‘t want to go down that road.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s bring in the audience here.
Is everyone here—anyone here familiar with cases where doctors in hospitals, every kind of hospital, religious or secular, have to make family decisions with surviving relatives on the question of when to stop hydrating, when to stop intravenous feeding? Is anyone familiar with these cases?
Let me just ask you, sir. What did you—what information could you bring to that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a sister who was dying in cancer in Murphysboro down the road here. And the decision was left to me. I was the nearest of kin. And I made the decision that—to go ahead and pull the tubes on her.
MATTHEWS: So, what did you feel about the Schiavo case, having been through that experience, that horrible experience?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that the Schiavo case was correct. I felt...
MATTHEWS: That the husband was right or the father was right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that the husband was right. I felt that this was carried far too long, that they should have let this young—this lady die years ago, months ago.
Well, the national poll I alluded to was, 82 percent said they thought that Congress—this wasn‘t about you, Tony. This was about the president and the office-holders; 82 percent of the people said the president and the Congress should have stayed out of that case.
Only 30 -- 13 percent—I was stunned by this number. I don‘t know if anybody else was stunned by it or not.
Any other personal experiences with these dying—life-and-death situations? Sir, what was it like for you? I‘m going to pass this mike into you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both my father and my stepfather died with Parkinson‘s disease. My mother had the option of allowing a feeding tube to be inserted or not. She elected not to. The biggest difference...
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. She kept it in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She—she had an option...
MATTHEWS: Decided not to put it in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... of whether to put it in or not to put it in.
She elected not to.
But these—both of these gentlemen were well into age. Their life was pretty well used at that time. With the Schiavo lady, she was young. There was some real potential that maybe, through technology or whatever, something could have been done for her that could have helped her.
MATTHEWS: Were you—were you surprised, then, to hear that the diagnosis, that the autopsy showed that her brain had shriveled to half its size and that she was truly—I hate to use the term—in that vegetative state?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s up to God to determine whether we‘re in a vegetative state or not. I can‘t determine that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don‘t think technology can either.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do know that we have good technology, but I don‘t think we‘ve reached that place.
How many people here believe that the family, if you have a living will from the person, a clear-cut—and this is—I guess we all should have one, whatever our backgrounds. If we have a clear-cut case of a person who left a clear-cut determination, should that be left to that family? Does everybody say yes or no?
MATTHEWS: How many think the government should still be able to come in and say no? How many think the parents should have a role, as well as the spouse?
MATTHEWS: How many think the spouse should be more important than the parent? How many think the parent should be more important than the spouse? That‘s a hard one, isn‘t it?
Yes, sir. I want you to have a chance here. Quickly, only a couple seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of times, you have to look at all of the dynamics around it.
You know, the world that we‘re in, unfortunately, has corrupted us in ways that where money issues are at stake and other things. And so, I don‘t think you can just absolutely put it—put this in just one category.
MATTHEWS: Well, do you go with the person who is—who is in the bad state at the end? Do you go with their living will?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go with the living will. But, if you have parents that are willing to take on that responsibility....
MATTHEWS: OK, I have got to go.
MATTHEWS: Hey, thank you, sir. Thank you. It‘s a very difficult issue.
We‘ll be right back with more of these troubling moral questions and the role of religion in making them.
We‘ll be right back with the HARDBALL Church Tour in Nashville, Tennessee.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Dr. Richard Land and Dr. Tony Campolo.
We just heard from a lot of personal experiences here. I don‘t think they were particularly talking ideology or religion. They were talking family history, where you have to make a very difficult decision. There was a mixture of views there and experiences.
What role should religious groups and religious organizations play in intervening in these cases, as they did in the Schiavo case? Or should they leave them to the local government, the local processes of deciding these things?
RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Well, I think that we are citizens.
We have a right to decide, along with other citizens, public policy. And if our views on these issues, if our moral values on these issues are based upon our religious convictions, we have the right to bring those religious convictions to bear. When we had separation of church and state in the First Amendment, it was never intended to mean the separation of religiously informed moral values from public policy.
And we don‘t have a right to expect that we win automatically, but we shouldn‘t be censored and we shouldn‘t be excluded.
MATTHEWS: Some people have said during that—they said, I don‘t care what the law is. Right and wrong here. And they felt they could intervene in any case that right and wrong superimposed itself over the legal process.
TONY CAMPOLO, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, EASTERN UNIVERSITY: The problem that I have is that a democracy is not where the majority rules, but where the rights of the minority are protected. And I worry about a government that imposes itself on a minority against its will. And so, that‘s—that‘s the real problem in a democracy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you a question.
Most Americans decide, when their heart changes, as the president is hoping it will, and decides that abortion should be outlawed. What do we do with the minority people who want to have abortions? What do we do, Doctor?
LAND: The same thing to the people who wanted to continue to segregate against people for the color of their skin. We have a right to say that nobody has a right to absolute right of life and death over another human being. And we believe that unborn babies are human beings.
LAND: And they deserve the protection of the law.
MATTHEWS: Should we—should we punish them?
LAND: We should punish the doctors.
MATTHEWS: Why shouldn‘t we punish the person who gets the abortion?
LAND: I—if—if I see a pregnant woman with a problem pregnancy, and I see two victims, two victims.
LAND: I would punish the doctors. I would punish the people who perform the abortions.
CAMPOLO: I am just so confused on this issue.
I think abortion should be exceedingly rare. But I would not want to see a law that in fact prohibited abortion under all conditions. I think there are some situations where abortions become necessary.
We‘re going to come right back and...
LAND: And I agree for the life of the mother, only the life of the mother, the physical life of the mother.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll be right back. We‘ll be right back with more of these moral discussions, the role of politics in religion and religion in politics.
MATTHEWS: And the president is coming up at the turn of the hour.
We‘ll be right back with more HARDBALL here in Nashville, Tennessee.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the HARDBALL Church Tour from the Two Rivers Baptist Church down here in Nashville, Tennessee—out here, I should say.
Coming up at the top of the hour, we‘re going to bring you live coverage of President Bush‘s address to the nation tonight on the war in Iraq, followed by a special edition of HARDBALL, a town meeting reaction right here to the president‘s speech. People are talking about social and moral issues. They‘re going to be talking about the war as well when we come back.
But, first, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, on Monday, on the placement of the Ten Commandments in public places. Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office in 2003 for defying a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state‘s judicial building in his location.
Here he comes right now. Thank you very much for joining us, Judge Roy Moore.
What did you think of that court ruling, that split decision at the Supreme Court yesterday?
ROY MOORE, FORMER ALABAMA CHIEF JUSTICE: Well, Chris, I thought it was terrible.
I think that it is a devastating blow to Christianity for a court to tell people they could do something as long as they didn‘t profess a belief in it. And that‘s what the case was about. It wasn‘t about separation of religion or something. It was about God. And I think Justice Scalia‘s comments in his opinion and Justice Thomas in his opinion made this very clear. We are a nation established on a particular God.
And to deny that God is to deny our organic law. There is nothing in the establishment clause that prevents us from acknowledging God. That‘s a fallacy created by the court in the mid-20th century, in the 1960s, I would say, and has continued to this day, to the point that they‘re actually tell the people of Texas, you can keep your monument because it‘s not religious. It does not have any effect acknowledging God.
But the one in McCreary County, because of the motive and purpose, that had to be excluded.
MATTHEWS: Bobbie, what did you think of that decision of the court? In Texas, they said it was all right as long as it was outside, it had no religious intent and had been there a long time. And in terms of the Ten Commandments appearing inside the courtroom in Kentucky, they said, no way.
What did you think?
BOBBIE PATRAY, PRESIDENT, TENNESSEE EAGLE FORUM: Welcome to Nashville, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Bobbie.
PATRAY: I thought it was very schizophrenic. And—I mean, what can I say?
The Ten Commandments are the Ten Commandments. And they‘re the basis for our law in our country and played a huge role in the founding documents and the way that the founders thought about our country. And to say that you can just sort of bless them in one way and say they‘re OK and then, in another setting, they‘re not OK, they are what they are.
MATTHEWS: What would you think of a big Buddha in some courtroom?
Would that be all right with you?
PATRAY: That‘s not...
MATTHEWS: I mean, that is it, just a big Buddha.
PATRAY: No. That‘s not what our law—that‘s not what our country is founded on.
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s our country founded on?
PATRAY: Judeo-Christian principles.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, you believe that the government should be biased toward the Ten Commandments, as opposed to some other religious icon?
PATRAY: I don‘t know that it is being biased to...
MATTHEWS: Well, preferential to it.
PATRAY: Our founders were preferential to that.
And—and in answer to your question a while ago about the effect that it has, evangelical Christians and other people of Christian faiths, regardless of their faith, they don‘t want to be ghettoized and they don‘t want to have to check their Christianity at the door went they go into the marketplace and into politics.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have public...
MATTHEWS: ... prayer? In the old days, when I was—people my age were growing up, people in public school would be able to read something from the King James version in school during the day.
It didn‘t seem to offend many people. Do you think that‘s OK?
PATRAY: I don‘t think you can keep prayer out of school.
MATTHEWS: No, no, a formal time when you read from the Bible.
PATRAY: I think probably, in today‘s culture, that—we‘ll not ever see those days again.
But people are going to pray in school. They‘re going to pray anywhere they can. That‘s the one thing about God. You can pray to him anywhere.
MATTHEWS: I have got to give you a cutting-edge question, Reverend Sutton, Dr. Sutton.
Do you think we should ever—should—normative question—should we ever try to bring back those days in the 1950s when a kid—hey, Joe, read something from the Bible. Read chapter whatever. And he stood up and read something from the Bible, the King James version. Most people are Protestant. Do you think that day should come back again?
SUTTON: I don‘t think those days will ever come back again.
MATTHEWS: Should they?
SUTTON: Should they? If I had my way, they would.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that would be fair to the kids like Mikey here, who is Jewish?
SUTTON: Well, you know, this is my...
MATTHEWS: He‘s not a kid anymore. But he was.
SUTTON: Yes. I understand. I understand that.
WEINSTEIN: I still look pretty young.
And he does. They call him Mikey.
From my perspective—and I‘ll just say this, personal experience. I‘ve gone to places, public setting, lead us in prayer, but don‘t use the name Jesus. I said, listen, I‘m a Baptist preacher. I‘ll use the name Jesus. But my rabbi, my friend Ron Roth (ph), for example, I would never expect him to use Jesus.
SUTTON: So, if you are asking him to pray, he prays his way. I pray my way. But don‘t put limitations on...
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Judge Moore here.
MATTHEWS: Mikey, go ahead.
WEINSTEIN: This really is not about the Ten Commandments. I mean, this is HARDBALL, not sissy ball. So let‘s say what it is about.
No one really has a problem with that. Honor your mother and father.
Don‘t kill. Don‘t cheat on your spouse. Don‘t lie, and things like that. What it really talks about is, what comes next? Now, in the case at the Air Force academy, which I‘m presuming we‘re going to get to...
MATTHEWS: We will.
WEINSTEIN: It is back to the future. For the first time on national TV, I brought the copy of the fully federally funded newspaper, which MSNBC can get a close-up of this.
This is a fully federally funded military newspaper that says, we believe that Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world. If you would like to discuss Jesus, feel free to contact one of us, signed by...
MATTHEWS: Is that an advertisement or is that part of the context in the book?
WEINSTEIN: This was—no, this was—this was—no, this is actually an advertisement in the federally funded newspaper for 10 years.
MATTHEWS: So, the magazine—the magazine didn‘t put it in there.
It was an advertisement.
WEINSTEIN: No. This was the newspaper, fully federally funded.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But it was an ad in the paper.
WEINSTEIN: But, yes, fully—yes, an ad in the paper.
MATTHEWS: All right.
WEINSTEIN: But it was signed by 16 academic department heads, nine permanent professors, the then current dean, the current dean now, the director of athletics, and 250 of the largest—of the people at the academy.
MATTHEWS: Reza, you‘re not a Christian, right?
REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, “NO GOD BUT GOD”: No, I‘m not.
MATTHEWS: You‘re Islamic?
ASLAN: I‘m a Muslim, yes.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this debate over whether we should have the King James version, a particular version of our Bible, read in school, or we should have the Ten Commandments, which also comes in different forms, actually, and different affiliations?
ASLAN: Well, I think there‘s no doubt that this country was not founded upon secularism. I don‘t think anyone—there was no such thing as secularism back there.
What this country was founded upon was pluralism and very clearly a Christian pluralism. And this was out of necessity. I mean, it was a response to the diversity of faiths that founded this country.
MATTHEWS: Within Christianity.
ASLAN: But within Christianity. That is no longer the case.
MATTHEWS: Where are we today in the 21st century?
ASLAN: That is no longer the case.
We‘re not a Christian pluralist country. We‘re a religiously pluralist country. And I think Judge Moore summed it up perfectly when he said that removal of the Ten Commandment is a devastating blow for Christianity. That right there is a crystal-clear issue of what his motives are, to use federal means to promote his own faith.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. Exactly.
PERKINS: But who is to decide that?
Is that to be decided by the courts or 70 -- plus -- 70-plus percent of the American people, who are fine with the Ten Commandments being on public property? What we have done is, we‘ve allowed the courts to address these social issues. And when you allow the courts to take on social and religious issues, you do not find peace. You do not find common ground.
ASLAN: But do we have anarchy? We‘re going to have anarchy...
PERKINS: ... let the democratic process do it.
ASLAN: I agree with that.
PERKINS: We debate these things.
MATTHEWS: I was in New York yesterday.
And a lot of communities in this country are 99 percent evangelical. And there wouldn‘t be any problem. You try having a religious discussion in a school in Queens, New York, with 100 different religions in the room.
PERKINS: But let them decide in that local school board.
MATTHEWS: Suppose one person stands up and says, I think Israel should go to hell? What happens then?
PERKINS: Let that school board to decide whether or not they should have...
ASLAN: ... national issue.
PENNYBACKER: Tony Campolo is exactly right. It is a minority protection issue.
It a matter of sensitivity to the complexity of our life. And I don‘t want any school district anywhere to do those things that exclude and offend fellow Americans who are not Christian and who are not a part of a predominant culture.
PENNYBACKER: We have got to be very clear that that is a religious mandate.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back and talk to the crowd out here about what we‘ve just been listening to, the crowd here at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
MATTHEWS: Back with more of the HARDBALL Church Tour when we return.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back talking about the role of God and religion in our public life here in America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My thought is, you‘re sitting here defending the rights of the minority. Whatever happened to the rights of the majority? We seem to have forgotten this among some of the people here on the panel.
Let‘s look at the college newspaper across the entire United States.
People can put in them whatever they want, as long as they pay for it. College groups can express it. Why do you sit here and point out the military? It was a paid advertisement.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a question. If you‘re in—you‘re in a school situation and you have to be there, or the truant officer comes after you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
MATTHEWS: And the teacher is watching you and somebody is reading from the King James version of the Bible, or whatever, whatever approved prayer. And you don‘t have any religious connection to that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Correct.
MATTHEWS: What should be your reaction at that moment as that is going—should you just think of something nice, think about your homework for the next class? Or should you pretend you‘re participating? What should be your participation?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘re not saying that the Bible needs to be the first thing read every morning.
MATTHEWS: Well, whatever, whatever it is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we‘re saying, though, is, we need to have the opportunity to read it, just like kids today have the right to bring in the Koran.
MATTHEWS: Are you reading it for yourself or for all the kids?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should be able to read it like you read any other book, is the key.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it has been excluded out of today‘s schools.
PENNYBACKER: That‘s not true.
ASLAN: Yes. Wait. Wait. Wait.
PENNYBACKER: That is just not true.
MATTHEWS: Reverend Albert Pennybacker, your thoughts.
PENNYBACKER: Well, I think that it is not true that the Bible can‘t be read in school.
The question is how you do it. And the question is whether you inflict it on other people. Of course it can be read.
PERKINS: Well, Chris, there is—just recently, an elementary school student was going to sing a Christian song in a talent show contest. And because it was a Christian song, she was banned from participating.
That was not state-sponsored. It was not sponsored by the school.
Her rights were violated by that school. That‘s what we‘re talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One the major hallmarks of democracy...
ASLAN: I think that most Americans would be shocked to think that somehow Christianity is under attack in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s right. That‘s right.
ASLAN: Christians are doing just fine.
There are certain issues, anecdotal issues, in which perhaps there are religious freedoms being stepped upon. But I think it is absurd, to get to the point, to think that the majority has no rights or that somehow Christianity is an oppressed faith.
WEINSTEIN: ... white people cannot sit in the front of the bus anymore because Rosa Parks wants to sit there. It‘s ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: OK, Mikey, I‘ve got to ask you something.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people who are in the majority here—and I understand we‘re being hosted by the evangelical majority.
WEINSTEIN: And they‘re very nice people.
MATTHEWS: No, no, they‘re majority here.
But what is it like to be in the minority? You were in a minority a lot of your life. You were in a military academy. I assume you were in the minority religiously there.
WEINSTEIN: You know, it‘s like trying to explain—I describe this -
· it‘s a great question—to Stevie Wonder what it would look like to look at the Grand Canyon on a July evening as the sun goes down. You can‘t understand it unless you‘ve been there.
It is a complete qualitative and quantitative difference, Chris. And it is very hard to express, which is, part of the problem is, we can‘t even establish cobwebs of confidence because our country is so deeply divided. It is impossible to articulate in the English language.
ASLAN: That said, it is a heck of a lot better being a minority in this country than it is in a lot of other places.
WEINSTEIN: That‘s true.
PATRAY: It‘s true.
WEINSTEIN: That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: Dr. Land, your thoughts.
LAND: Well, first of all, I think that Christians are probably better judges of whether they‘re being discriminated against and persecuted than people who aren‘t Christians.
MATTHEWS: How so?
LAND: Just in Knoxville, just in Knoxville, last month, a 10-year-old boy was bringing his Bible to school to read during recess, Dr. Pennybacker, with fellow students who had their Bibles. The principal sent him home. The principal said, don‘t ever come back with that Bible on this property.
And, in the case of the Air Force academy, they‘ve hired—they‘ve brought in a military chaplain who is Jewish to help with sensitivity training. There‘s no sensitivity training in this elementary school. And the University of North Carolina required all students to read segments of the Koran and to have sensitivity training concerning Islam, but they would not allow it for the Bible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s not true. That‘s not true.
LAND: There‘s no question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comparative religion. You‘re not telling the truth.
LAND: There is no question that there is discrimination against Christians in this country in public...
LAND: .. in the public sector all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not true.
PENNYBACKER: No, not true.
PENNYBACKER: Not true. That‘s not true.
PENNYBACKER: You‘ve got to match that comment...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
PATRAY: What about the—what about the schoolchildren in California that were forced to wear Muslim attire and read from the Koran and do that sort of thing? If that was done and if it had been Christians, people would have gone bananas over that. And what about the child that is made to feel ashamed...
MATTHEWS: Who was forcing them, Bobbie? Who was forcing them to do that? I‘m sorry.
PATRAY: It was a part of the curriculum for the school that was a part of the textbook, where they were—they went for the Holy Week, the holidays, the attire.
And what about the little child that is made to feel ashamed because they bow their head to say grace quietly over their food in the cafeteria and are told that they can‘t do that, and then they go home thinking they‘ve done something bad?
Well, thank you all. It‘s been a hot debate tonight here in Nashville.
MATTHEWS: It‘s been a great evening of discussion, very civilized.
And I have to tell you, what happened here tonight is a replica of what‘s going on in American life today, the proper role of religion. It is certainly true that most Americans, I would say 90 percent say in God we trust. They say one nation under God. They‘re very comfortable with the role of God generally speaking.
Where the debate begins is when it becomes a question of affiliation against an affiliation, the King James version or the Douay Rheims version, the Roman Catholic version, or whether Christian and Jew can sit down and say the same prayer or prayers can be said that don‘t offend one group or another.
All I can tell you, I was in Queens, New York, the other day. And I saw Billy Graham unite everybody. And it still works.
Anyway, thank you all for joining us tonight. We‘re going to stay with them and talk about the president tonight and his big speech.
MATTHEWS: Back with more HARDBALL.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Coming up at the top of the hour, of course, President Bush will address the nation on the situation in Iraq. He is going to be speaking from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
And for a preview of tonight‘s speech, we‘re joined by White House communications director Nicolle Devenish.
Nicolle, what can we expect from the president tonight in 10 minutes?
NICOLLE DEVENISH, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, Chris, we‘ll hear tonight from our commander in chief I think in the most detail to date about the nature of the enemy we face in Iraq and about the stakes.
And I think you‘ll hear him answer the question directly that he understands people may contemplate amid the images of violence coming out of Iraq. And that is, you know, it worth it? Are the sacrifices worth it? And he‘ll make very clear that, not only are they worth it, but they‘re critical to our safety here at home.
MATTHEWS: Most Americans are saying to pollsters now—I don‘t know if they believe it—they‘re saying, they think it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq. How can the president turn that around in a half-hour or 40-minute speech?
DEVENISH: Well, it—we take seriously our responsibility to explain to the American people the nature of the enemy we face and mistakes.
And, again, the enemy that is successful in carrying out violent attacks in Iraq shares a murderous ideology with the enemies that attacked us here on our homeland on September 11. And the president will talk about how critical it is for our safety here at home to establish a stable and secure democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thanks for coming on. It is going to be a big night for the country.
DEVENISH: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Nicolle Devenish.
DEVENISH: Thanks a lot.
MATTHEWS: White House communications director.
MATTHEWS: I want to thank all of our guests here at HARDBALL at the HARDBALL Church Tour, just the beginning of it. We‘ll do other ones.
Dr. Albert, Pennybacker, Dr. Richard Land, Tony Campolo, Tony Perkins, Bobbie Patray, Mikey Weinstein, Reza Aslan, Judge Roy Moore, and, of course, our host, what a great host. Thank you, Dr. Jerry Sutton, and everyone out here at Two Rivers Baptist Church, what a beautiful spot, what a beautiful church, best acoustics I‘ve ever seen.
In a moment, we‘ll have some live coverage of President Bush‘s prime-time address to the nation on Iraq from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And following that, the same people here are going to stick around. We‘re going to have a real-live middle-of-the-country Nashville town meeting with people standing up, like they‘ve been before, to talk about what they think of the war and what the president had to say. We‘ve got some people very close to our fighting people over there.
Right now, stay tuned for President Bush‘s address to the nation on Iraq.
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