NEW YORK (Oct. 13)
Independent Presidential candidate John Anderson lashed out last night at rightwing Christian fundamentalists and others who want their religious views imposed on the country.
The United States from its founding has been based on a “recognition of a Supreme Being, ” he told an overflow crowd of thousands at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan. But, “I find this vastly different” from the demands by groups like Moral Majority which say the “Scriptures must be the source of government.” (See related stories P. 2 and 3)
Anderson was responding to questions from Dr. William Berkowitz, rabbi of the congregation, in a special session of the synagogue’s annual Dialogue series, now in its 30th year. Berkowitz said he hoped President Carter, the Democratic candidate, and Republican standard bearer Ronald Reagan, will also accept his invitation to appear.
DANGEROUS IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY
The Independent candidate, who is also a Republican Congressman from Illinois, said clergymen had a right to take political stands but religious groups should not support candidates. He said it was especially “dangerous into pluralistic society” to take positions and label them as “Christian” and your opponents as “non-Christian.”
The upsurge of rightwing fundamentalism is due to the “frustration” of many people with the problems facing the country, Anderson said. “But the needed resurgence of morality will have to come from the church, the synagogue, the house of worship, ” he declared. He said it was not for the government to use “specific religious doctrine in order to “pass a particular law.”
Anderson said this would be a violation of the separation of church and state which protects all believers, including those people who do not believe.
The Illinois Congressman repeated what he has said throughout his campaign, namely, that it was a “mistake” for him to introduce in the 1960s an amendment to the Constitution which would have made the U.S. a “Christian nation.” He noted that for the last 10 years he has voted against the attempts to restore prayer to the public schools.
JERUSALEM AND WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS
On the question of Israel, Anderson said that since entering Congress in January, 1961, he has supported every bill and resolution favoring the Jewish State. He noted that he did not do this for political or financial reasons since Jews make up only about I percent of the population of his rural district in northwest Illinois.
Anderson said he feels “a band of kinship with the people of Israel” because Israel is a “fellow democracy,” a loyal ally and because the Jewish State was born out of the “suffering” of the Holocaust.
Asked about the Carter Administration’s assertion that the Jewish settlements on the West Bank are illegal and an obstacle to peace, Anderson said he does not believe they are illegal in a “juridical sense. ” He said the settlements he has seen on the West Bank are not an obstacle to peace but he said placing settlements in heavily populated Arab areas is not “helpful” to the peace negotiations.
Anderson said Jerusalem is a “city which must remain undivided.” He repeated his previous statement on this issue, that as the final act of a peace agreement the U.S. should move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Anderson said he opposed a Palestinian state and said the U.S. should not deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and renounces terrorism. He said the PLO is a “terrorist group and ought to be recognized as such, particularly if we want to convince our fellow members of the Atlantic alliance who are flirting with the PLO.”