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Clinton Praises Evangelical Christians

By KAREN MATTHEWS
The Associated Press
Thursday, June 15, 2006; 9:03 PM

NEW YORK -- Former President Bill Clinton praised evangelical Christians on Thursday for their recent efforts on global warming and debt relief for poor nations and said he sees growing understanding between people of different faiths.

Clinton made the remarks while accepting an award from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. He said that as president he had "a consuming interest in the intersection of religion and politics."

He said evangelicals, few of whom voted for him, "were instrumental in the biggest debt relief initiative in history in my last year as president because they believed in the admonition of the Scripture to alleviate the burdens of the poor."

Clinton also noted the publication earlier this year of "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action," which was signed by many leading conservative Christians and which frames environmental protection as a Christian imperative.

The mission of the New York-based Tanenbaum Center is "to defuse verbal and physical violence perpetrated in the name of religion" worldwide, according to the group's Web site.

Clinton, speaking at the group's awards luncheon, said religion is a problem for both liberals and conservatives in the United States.

"For people in America who are a part of my political tradition, our great sin has often been ignoring religion or denying its power or refusing to engage it because it seemed hostile to us," he said. "For ... the so-called Christian right and its allies, their great sin has been believing they were in full possession of the truth."

Clinton, a Southern Baptist, noted that there was once a resolution at his denomination's convention to expel his church because of his positions in favor of abortion rights and gay rights. It failed.

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On the Net:

Tanenbaum Center: http://www.tanenbaum.org/

© 2006 The Associated Press