Vice presidential candidate calls for return to religion
Associate News Editor
In a time of moral uncertainty, America needs to return to the ideas of faith and values and bring them into the public dialogue on issues, using them as a unifying factor, said Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Senator Joseph Lieberman in an address to the Notre Dame community Tuesday.
The address, billed as a major speech on faith and values, was not a traditional campaign speech attacking the opposing Party and pushing his Party's platform planks. Rather, Lieberman, the first Jewish-American candidate to be tapped for a spot on a presidential ticket said he chose Notre Dame to deliver a major speech on faith because the integration of faith and values at the University made him "feel at home here [Notre Dame]."
Lieberman emphasized the need to use faith to begin to restore the country's social and moral values that have been eroded by school shootings, the breakdown of families and the influence of the entertainment industry on American culture.
"I believe that our best hope for rekindling the American spirit and renewing our common values is to have faith again," said Lieberman. "Not just in our hearts but in our communities. Not just in our private places of worship but in our public spaces of conversation. And not just in our separate beliefs, but is our common commitment to our common purposes as Americans."
Limits exist as to what government can do to strengthen the moral fabric of the country and it is not designed to dictate behavior of citizens in America, said Lieberman. However, Lieberman said the Founders knew that religion was an influence on values and moral behavior and that is why religion was mentioned in the major documents written by the Founders.
Lieberman said that he feared that while Americans have not abandoned their faith individually, they have abandoned the desire to articulate it in the public sphere. This has resulted in what he referred to as the "values vacuum."
"More and more people shrink from drawing bright lines and making moral judgments, which are critical to the functioning of a free society," said Lieberman. "The line between church and state is an important one and has always been critical for us to draw, but in recent years I fear that we have gone far beyond what the Framers ever imagined in separating the two."
Popular culture would benefit from Americans returning to articulating their faith in public, said Lieberman. By allowing faith to influence values, Lieberman said that he and Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore would fight to take the entertainment industry "fulfill the responsibilities that come with their rights." Specifically, Lieberman demanded that the entertainment industry "stop targeting adult-rated materials to kids."
Lieberman also talked about religion as a unifying factor despite differences among the beliefs of people of various religions. At one point in his address, a member of the audience yelled "What about abortion?" when Lieberman was addressing the issue of morality. Lieberman is pro-choice. Lieberman responded to the audience member and said, "You've made your point, I respect that and I ask you to continue my right to speak as I intended to do when I came here."
He told the audience that he would address the issue of differences on issues like abortion in his speech.
For Lieberman, religion has been a unifying factor and drawing religion and faith into issues facing America is key for him, he said. Because he invokes God often in speeches, Lieberman has said that he has been encouraged not to do so fearing that people will think he is blurring the line of church and state.
"They seem to have forgotten that the Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," said Lieberman in response to those questions. He added that he has been encouraged by people being willing to embrace religious differences and has encountered individuals from religious backgrounds other than his own who have embraced him.
"Instead of focusing on what seems different to some, they have embraced what is common to all," said Lieberman.
Lieberman acknowledged that it can be a challenge to overcome religious differences but it is in the best interest of Americans to do so.
"One thing I have learned from these relationships is that faith can and often does lead us to different personal conclusions about particular issues," said Lieberman. "Devout men and women can and do have disagreements over difficult moral questions. But I hope that our faith should help to remind us of our common origins, including, of course, the goodness and human imperfection that is in each of us. And it should help build the necessary good will so we can disagree without being divisive and so we can ultimately reach for common ground."
People of different faiths have come together to positively impact America on issues, said Lieberman.
"To make a difference, we must take our religious beliefs and values — our sense of justice, of right and wrong — into America's cultural and communal life," said Lieberman.
"And in communities across America, people of faith are working to repair some of the worst effects of our damaged moral and cultural life, and because of their good works and that of others, we have made real progress in reducing teen pregnancy, youth violence and drug abuse."
Emphasizing that if elected, he and Gore could not "cure our [America's] moral ailments from Washington," but rather would "continue seeking laws and policies that are informed and expresses our best values."
Both he and Gore share a commitment to returning America to a more moral ground, said Lieberman.
"Vice President Gore and I share this commitment to a higher purpose," he said. "We share this vision of a more just, more moral, and more inclusive America. And we share a dedication to using our offices and our influence to support and encourage this new burst of moral and cultural renewal."
Lieberman cited specific policies that he and Gore would address if elected that would demonstrate a commitment to the integration of faith in values.
"We want to seek laws that will help strengthen our families and communities," said Lieberman.
"After all, strengthening Medicare and Social Security surely follows the commandment to honor our fathers and mothers. Improving our public schools and expanding access to health care surely fulfills our obligations to care for our children, the most precious of God's creations. And protecting our environment upholds our obligation to honor and guard God's work."
All News Stories for Wednesday, October 25, 2000