Lieberman Says ADL Misunderstood
By Brigitte Greenberg
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2000; 8:56 p.m. EDT PORTLAND, Ore. Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman said Wednesday that the Anti-Defamation League misunderstood him earlier this week when he advocated a greater role for faith and religion in American public life.
He said the response to his remarks at a black church in Detroit on Sunday and an interfaith breakfast in Chicago on Monday was "a bit of an overreaction."
After those speeches, the league urged Lieberman, the first Orthodox Jew on a national party ticket, to tone down his references to religion.
"I respect the ADL, but I respectfully disagree," Lieberman said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think they misunderstood part of it, part of what I was trying to say. And the whole point of it is that I think faith has a constructive role that it can play in American life.
"It certainly plays a constructive role in the lives of millions of Americans and can in the community as well and that's what I was trying to say," he added.
At Fellowship Chapel in Detroit on Sunday, Lieberman said:
"As a people, we need to reaffirm our faith and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God's purposes. Let us break through some of the inhibitions that have existed to talk together across the flimsy lines of separation of faith, to talk together, to study together, to pray together, and ultimately to sing together His holy name."
The next day, he addressed religious leaders at an interfaith breakfast in Chicago.
"This is the most religious country in the world and sometimes we try to stifle that fact or hide it. But the profound and ultimately most important reality is that we are not only citizens of this blessed country, we are citizens of the same awesome God," Lieberman said.
The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, issued a statement later that day, warning Lieberman that "there is a point at which an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours."
In the interview, Lieberman said the message was appropriate, given the settings.
"I thought there was a little bit of an overreaction. I wasn't hawking my religious views, I was really talking more generically," he said.
Lieberman also said that no one from the campaign of Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, has asked him to tone down his religious message.
Looking ahead to the coming weeks, Lieberman said he would be visiting many swing states where the race is tight.
Asked about polls showing that Gore has surged since putting Lieberman on the ticket, he said: "Maybe it began with his choice of me, but it only began with that."
"Maybe it led people to want to take a second look at him," he said of Gore, also attributing the improvement to the vice president's "great speech" at the Democratic convention.
"I think that people were not being fair in their judgment of him," Lieberman said. "I think they now see him as what I know he is, which is a good man, a good family man and a strong leader."
© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press