Religious Leaders Express Differing Opinions over President's Speech

February 7, 2003

Source: The Dallas Morning News

On February 7, 2003 the Dallas Morning News reported that "Religious leaders reacting to President Bush's State of the Union speech seemed generally pleased with his proposal to further address the AIDS crisis in Africa but remained divided over his plans for confronting Iraq as well as domestic issues relating to cloning, abortion and faith-based groups... Madhi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said the president's words did not change his stand against war. Joining the applause for the AIDS initiative, he wished more money could be used for healing rather than battling... The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, worried about innocent casualties and further provocation of foreign hostility against the United States... The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, an ecumenical organization that opposes way, said: 'Despite the president's strong rhetoric, he has not made a convincing case for war. Most churches have concluded that a war with Iraq would not be a just war.' The Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, took a different stance. 'I thought the president made a compelling case that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction are a clear and growing danger to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States and all of our allies,' he said. Mr. Bush's plans to advance his faith-based initiative by including religious groups among drug treatment programs receiving federal funding sparked criticism from those concerned about church-state separation... Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said the proposal indicates that Mr. Bush is 'heading down a dangerous road, putting the government in a position of choosing between and amongst religions'... The president's reiteration of his opposition to cloning and the procedure critics called 'partial-birth abortion' also prompted mixed reactions. Supporters such as Focus on the Family president James Dobson said that Mr. Bush's language showed 'strength and courage.' Mr. Plavin, of the Religious Action Center, said that Mr. Bush's policies would hinder medical research and 'chip away at women's reproductive rights.'