Democratic leader Howard Dean blasted the GOP’s lack of diversity in a speech to Jewish communal leaders.
Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also appeared to criticize the practice of including an invocation of Jesus at the end of pre-game prayers at scholastic sporting events.
Dean made the remark Sunday during a decidedly partisan speech at the opening plenary of the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly in Nashville. He painted the Republican Party as religiously and racially exclusive.
His speech to the 3,500 Jewish communal leaders in attendance followed an address by the University of Tennessee’s basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, who told the crowd that as a Jewish student in public schools he always felt uncomfortable when he was playing sports and his team’s pre-game prayers would end with an invocation to Jesus.
“This country is not a theocracy,” Dean said. “There are fundamental differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party believes that everybody in this room ought to be comfortable being an American Jew, not just an American; that there are no bars to heaven for anybody; that we are not a one-religion nation; and that no child or member of a football team ought to be able to cringe at the last line of a prayer before going onto the field.”
Dean said the next president of the United States would have to repair the country, which has lost its moral authority in the past seven years.
Some UJC officials and local Jewish federations quietly grumbled that Dean’s comments were too partisan. G.A. organizers had invited President Bush to represent the Republicans and the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to represent the Democrats.
Instead, the Democrats ended up sending Dean, and the White House is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will address the closing plenary on Tuesday.