- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, described himself yesterday as a practicing Roman Catholic whose religion has informed his values and played a significant role in his life without influencing his stance on public policies.

“Your character — it has be informed by your value system,” the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate told his audience at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “So what you believe or don’t believe about some of these issues is fair game in my judgment in terms of making a judgment about your character.”

“It is not obviously fair game in terms of deciding policies that are transferred directly from religion or on behalf of religion into the public square without regard for other people’s beliefs and structures.”

Mr. Kerry said that diversity and pluralism are the most important values for Americans today and that religions can help them see that.

“I think we should go out there boldly and bravely understanding diversity and pluralism; that’s the bottom-line thing,” Mr. Kerry said. “You’ve always got to put diversity and pluralism up front. That’s the No. 1 thing.”

“If elected president, I had major plans to create interfaith dialogue at the highest level … to help discover the universality of these issues, and that’s where they’ll start to find some common ground,” Mr. Kerry said at the Faith and Public Dialogue: A Candidate’s Right to Privacy, the Public’s Right to Know and the Politics of Division.

He mentioned the “Communion wars” of 2004, when several Catholic bishops warned him not to present himself for Communion in their dioceses because of his pro-choice stance, but said he still thinks abortion should be legal.

“What we need to do is to make sure people have other alternatives [besides abortion] and other options,” Mr. Kerry said. “That’s where you can find a lot of common ground because there are 1.3 million abortions in this country, and I don’t think anybody would disagree that is too many.”

Quoting former President Bill Clinton, he said that abortion “ought to be safe, legal and rare.”

“Rare has been missing from the debate,” Mr. Kerry said.

He said that the dignity of human life is one issue many religions take seriously, and it can be relevant to issues other than abortion, such as medical care.

“I know Jesus didn’t say to just heal those who can pay,” Mr. Kerry said sarcastically.

Having “respect for God’s creation,” or climate change, is another issue Mr. Kerry said many can agree on.

“Evangelicals are starting to talk about creation care, and that is a very important and legitimate component.” he said. “They are espousing the principle that any damage you do to God’s world is an offense to God.”

In the 2008 election, Mr. Kerry said that he hopes the public will not overemphasize judging somebody’s formative years and character to the detriment of a candidate’s policies.

“The key is that the media and church and public don’t allow [a candidate’s religion] to get out of proportion,” he said.

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