WASHINGTON (Sep. 6)
Former Vice President Walter Mondale accused President Reagan today of giving in to a “moral McCarthyism” by seeking to brand his political opponents as anti-religious.
“No President should attempt to transform policy debate into theological disputes,” Mondale told some 1,500 persons at the biennial convention of B’nai B’rith International. “We must not let it be thought that political dissent from him is un-Christian. And he must not cast opposition to his programs as opposition to America.”
Mondale also made a strong denunctiation of bigotry and anti-Semitism. “All my life, I have fought anti-Semitism, racism and every other spiritual obscenity,” Mondale said. “All intolerance is ugly, whether it wears the sheets of the Ku Klux Klan or spreads the slurs of the Christian Voice. All hatred is poison, whether it comes from the mouth of Rabbi (Meir) Kahane or the radio program of Louis Farrakhan.”
In introducing Mondale to the audience, Billy Goldberg, a former B’nai B’rith International vice president, noted that Mondale had attended more B’nai B’rith meetings than many of those present. Mondale told them “we have worked together for over 25 years for a just and caring America, for a strong Israel and for freedom and human rights around the world.”
CONCENTRATION OF CHURCH-STATE ISSUE
Mondale’s speech concentrated on the church-state issue, particularly following President Reagan’s speech at a prayer breakfast during the Republican National Convention in Dallas in which Reagan accused opponents of prayer in the schools as being intolerant of religion.
“B’nai B’rith is opposed to Mr. Reagan’s amendment,” on school prayer, Mondale said. “I would not call you intolerant of religion.” Mondale charged that Reagan, who addressed this group later this morning, “instead of construing dissent from him in good faith… has insulted the motive of those who disagree with him, including me.”
Mondale, who was applauded numerous times for his statements on freedom of religion, said he accepted the “challenge” from a group of Catholic, Protestant, Baptist and Jewish leaders yesterday in New York for the political parties to commit themselves to the spirit of religious tolerance. “I accept that challenge for myself, for Geraldine Ferraro and for the Democratic Party. And I call on Mr. Reagan to do the same.”
Mondale gave several examples of what he called were efforts “by a determined band” to use “government power to impose their own beliefs on other people and the Reagan Administration has opened their arms to them.”
Among those he listed were Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada who sent a “Dear Christian Leader “letter to 45,000 ministers, asking support for Reagan; the Rev. Jerry Falwell, “whose benediction at the Republican Convention called Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush, ‘God’s instruments for rebuilding America;’” the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, who Mondale said “insists that Catholicism is a ‘false religion’ and that Jews are damned to go to hell” but “is a welcome policy adviser at the White House.” Mondale said that because of the attacks, for the first time in his 25 years of public life, he has to defend his own political statements. He gave his credo as:
“I believe in an America where all people have the right to pursue their faith not just freely, but also without insult or embarrassment; where religious freedom is not a passive tolerance but an active celebration of our pluralism.
“I believe in an America that gives — as George Washington wrote to the Touro Synagogue — ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’
“I believe in an America that has been a home and refuge for people from every faith. Our government is the protector of every faith because it is the exclusive property of none.
“I believe in an America that honors what Thomas Jefferson first called the ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That freedom has made our faith unadulterated and unintimidated. It has made Americans the most religious people on earth. Today, the religion clauses of the First Amendment do not need to be fixed; they need to be followed.
“I believe in an America where government is not permitted to dictate the religious life of our people; where religion is a private matter between the individuals and God, between families and their churches and synagogues, with no room for politicians in between.”
Mondale also noted that Reagan “has been calling his party ‘America’s party.’ I hope he does not mean to suggest that the other party — my party — is unAmerican.”
Mondale declared “there is not one party that believes in God, and one that does not. There is not one party that is for family life, and one that is against it. There is not one party that would weaken America, and one that would strengthen it … There is not one party that is patriotic, and one that is not.”
‘NO ROOM FOR INTOLERANCE’
He said: “The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind — none. The unique thing about America is a wall in our constitution separating church and state. It guarantees there never will be a state religion in this land, but at the same time it makes sure that every single American is free to choose no religion at all. Their rights shall not be questioned or violated by the state.”
As did Mondale, Reagan quoted from George Washington’s famous letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island in which Washington said that in the U.S. believers of all kinds and non-believers “shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Reagan denounced quotas while stressing his Administration has and will continue to fully enforce the civil rights laws. “We remain unalterably opposed to an idea that would undermine the concept of equality itself — discriminatory quotas,” he said.
“You know, I can remember a time when America did have quotas. They were used in an attempt to make discrimination legitimate and permanent, keeping Jews and other targets of bigotry out of colleges and medical schools and jobs. I cannot state it too forcibly: this type of thing must never happen again.”
In introducing Reagan to the 1,500 persons in the audience, Max Fisher of Detroit said that Reagan resigned from a country club in 1947 because it barred Jews and that in 1948 he was among the first in the movie industry to support the establishment of the State of Israel.
CITES COMMON U.S.-ISRAELI VALUES
“The first step in understanding American-Israeli relations is to recognize our common values, aspirations, and interests,” Reagan said today. He said this is one of the reasons for the “widespread hostility to Israel” which has shown up particularly in the United Nations and other international organizations.
“Since taking office, our Administration has used every opportunity to reaffirm before the world our unwavering support for the State of Israel,” Reagan declared. “If ever the United Nations should vote to expel Israel … we will walk out of the hall together.”
Reagan noted that Premier Yitzhak Shamir has said that American-Israel relations had never been better. He said the U.S. alliance with Israel has been strengthened by the upgrading and formalization of strategic cooperation; the renewal of the United States-Israel Memorandum of Agreement for cooperation in military research, procurement and logistics; and U.S. aid to Israel which from 1981 through 1984 totaled nearly $9.5 billion and which in 1985 will be $2.6 billion, all of it a grant.
Reagan reaffirmed that his September 1, 1982 peace initiative “remains fully valid” and the initiative and the Camp David accords “represent the foundation of our continuing policy.” But, he added, “Let me assure you we will never attempt to impose a solution on Israel. Nor will we ever weaken in our opposition to terrorism, by the PLO or anybody else.”
Reagan did not mention Jerusalem today, as he did when he spoke to the B’nai B’rith in 1980, declaring Jerusalem’s “centrality to Jewish life is known to all.” He also said then “unlike the days prior to 1967, Jerusalem is now and will continue to be one city, with continuing free access to all.”
Reagan received warm applause when toward the conclusion of his address, he said, “As we approach the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, let us pray that the New Year will be a Shanah Tovah Umetukah — a good and sweet year for both America and Israel.”