Tags: Ashcroft | Still | Under | Attack | for | Religious | Beliefs

Ashcroft Still Under Attack for Religious Beliefs

Monday, 14 May 2001 12:00 AM

His daily Bible study sessions, held at the Justice Department, have offended "some who do not share Ashcroft's Pentecostal Christian beliefs," the newspaper reported.

One unnamed Justice attorney is quoted as saying that Ashcroft's daily prayer meeting - which employees are welcome but not required to attend - "strikes me and a lot of others as offensive, disrespectful and unconstitutional."

Critics call the sessions "alienating," and one Justice attorney questioned whether people's careers could be affected by whether or not they attend the prayer sessions.

The article notes that many members of Congress hold prayer meetings at the Capitol, and top Justice officials say Ashcroft's sessions should not be viewed any differently than those meetings are.

The article quotes Ashcroft's defenders as saying he goes out of his way to be fair and noncoercive.

"If there's anyone who knows how to walk that line, I have full confidence in the capability of our attorney general to do so," said Louis Sheldon, chairman of Traditional Values Coalition, the largest nondenominational, grassroots church lobby in America.

"The Congress and other departments and even the president meet for prayer, not necessarily all open to the public, and it's not unconstitutional," Sheldon said.

"This is a great tradition in the American experiment. It's called freedom of religion. Our Founding Fathers all did it. It's great that John Ashcroft has revived this tradition."

Sheldon said the religion has always been a part of Congress's history.

"For nearly a hundred years, the floor of the United States House of Representatives became a church. The Congress sponsored religious services every Sunday morning beginning with Mr. Jefferson's administration. And that's documented at the Library of Congress."

Thomas Jipping, director of Judicial Selection Monitoring Project at Free Congress Foundation, said this latest criticism of Ashcroft is unfounded.

"There is nothing wrong with it," Jipping said. "If people don't like it [they] don't have to participate."

Jipping said Ashcroft's invitation to pray and study Scripture is not a mandatory activity.

"He invites people to participate who want to. It baffles me why anyone would have a problem with it. It's not a policy ... there hasn't even been any paper, like a memo or anything like this about it. It's simply word of mouth. It's an invitation for people to participate in something if they choose. How could anyone possibly have a problem with something like that? I'm totally baffled by it," Jipping said.

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His daily Bible study sessions, held at the Justice Department, have offended some who do not share Ashcroft's Pentecostal Christian beliefs, the newspaper reported. One unnamed Justice attorney is quoted as saying that Ashcroft's daily prayer meeting - which employees...
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2001-00-14
Monday, 14 May 2001 12:00 AM
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