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On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, GOP presidential hopeful, apologized for
characterizing Pat Robertson and me as agents of intolerance and “forces of
evil.” He added that, while he disagrees with our political messages he, in
fact, does not consider us as evil.

Earlier, Mr. McCain, in an interview with CBS anchor Dan Rather,
suggested that the political efforts of conservative Christians were
damaging the GOP. “Dan, this is about the heart of the Republican Party,”
McCain said. “Are we going to let Jerry Falwell tell us what the party
should do or are we going to let a message of Reagan Democrats, inclusion, a
big party, and one that can govern again be the way that this party goes?”

It should be noted that I am not a registered Republican, but an
independent. However, in recent years, the GOP has provided — with some
exceptions — what I believe to be the best political opportunity to
conservative Christians.

I truly believe it is important that the GOP remain open-armed to
conservative people of faith if it is to have any hope for survival. This is
a message that Ronald Reagan fully realized, and one which Mr. McCain needs
to understand.

While Mr. McCain has apologized for his demonization of conservative
Christians, he needs to now work to heal his relationship with us. (And
while our values may sometimes conflict with Mr. McCain’s, I think all
Americans need to consider this man a true American hero after he spent five
and a half years in a communist prison cell. We should all be deeply
indebted to him.)

I do accept Mr. McCain’s apology. I fully realize that in the heat of the
political battle it is easy for politicians to speak off the cuff and say
things they do not intend to say.

I think this is exactly what happened with Sen. McCain, and he should not
be further assailed for the careless remarks. The truth is that Sen. McCain
and I do have obvious political differences.

However, I learned long ago that a political party is not a church and we
can fully expect to have countering points of view within the bounds of
political debate.

But we must have unity if we hope to win in November. The goal, as we all
know, is to ensure that Al Gore does not sit in the Oval Office come
January.

Therefore, it is high time to enact Ronald Reagan’s legendary and wise
11th Commandment and stop the intra-party disparagement.

Mr. Reagan’s important commandment means that Mr. McCain needs to steer
clear of verbal attacks on people of faith within the party.

It also means that the so-called “Catholic Voter Alert” calls from his
campaign must cease.

It means it is time for McCain co-chairman Warren Rudman to distance
himself from earlier statements characterizing Christian activists as crazed
radicals.

And it means that it’s time to halt the denigration of Mr. Rudman and Mr.
McCain, even though we reserve the right to counter their political efforts
and they should have the right to disagree with us — considerately.

I also want to express thanks to Gary Bauer for encouraging Sen. McCain
to apologize for his judgmental statements.

Bauer stated, “As a Reagan Republican and a man of faith who has endorsed
Sen. John McCain’s candidacy for president of the United States, I must in
the strongest possible terms repudiate Sen. McCain’s unwarranted,
ill-advised and divisive attacks on certain religious leaders. I call on
Sen. McCain to retract his recent statements and apologize to Pat Robertson
and Jerry Falwell, as well as all men and women of faith.

“This country was built on Judeo-Christian values and the active
involvement of citizens with these values. They remain our best hope for the
future.”

While I do not understand Gary Bauer’s endorsement of Sen. McCain, I do
believe that Gary continues to be an intrepid spokesman for the interests of
people of faith in our nation.

Gary noted that the comparison of Pat Robertson and me to “the demagogic
race-baiter Al Sharpton and the anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan was unfounded
and unwise. Such rhetoric serves only to divide the party and place into the
hands of the liberal elite material to falsely depict Christian
conservatives as intolerant extremists.”

Now, let’s bury the hatchet and get to work on getting a real
conservative elected to the White House.

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