- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

President Bush yesterday praised Americans of all faiths for turning to prayer in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, the president said he has spent much time "on bended knee" since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people.
"Millions of Americans have been led to prayer. They have prayed for comfort in time of grief, for understanding in a time of anger, for protection in a time of uncertainty. Many, including me, have been on bended knee," Mr. Bush said.
"The prayers of this nation are a part of the good that has come from the evil of September the 11th, more good than we could ever have predicted. Tragedy has brought forth the courage and the generosity of our people," he said.
Mr. Bush said all religious faiths teach tolerance, humility and the value of helping neighbors all pivotal elements of recovery from the terrorist attacks.
"Every religion is welcomed in our country. All are practiced here. Many of our citizens profess no religion at all. Our country has never had an official faith. Yet we have all been witnesses, these past 21 weeks, to the power of faith to see us through the hurt and loss that has come on to the country," he said.
"Faith shows us the way to self-giving, to love our neighbors as we would want to be loved ourselves."
The 50th annual prayer breakfast brought together the president, Cabinet officials, lawmakers, foreign heads of state and spiritual leaders. Nearly 2,500 people gathered in the Washington Hilton ballroom for the early-morning event.
Yesterday's breakfast was filled with tributes to the fallen heroes of the September 11 attacks. Mr. Bush lauded the courage of Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer, who led a band of passengers in an uprising against terrorists aboard United Flight 93 with the words, "Let's roll." Mr. Bush has said those words illustrate a cultural change in America.
"I appreciate her example of faith made stronger in trial. In the worst moments of her life, Lisa has been a model of grace her own and the grace of God. And all America welcomes into the world Todd and Lisa's new daughter, Morgan Kay Beamer."
The president also praised New York City firefighter Joe Finley, who lived through a day that took 343 of his fellow firefighters.
"He's a living example of what sacrifice and courage means," Mr. Bush said.
For other victims and survivors of September 11, Mr. Bush said: "The men and women who charged into burning buildings to save others, those who fought the hijackers, were not confused about the difference between right and wrong.
"They knew the difference. They knew their duty. And we know their sacrifice was not in vain."
Mr. Bush yesterday also gave his support to compromise legislation to help religious charities, defending it as a way to help religious groups without breaching the Constitution's separation between church and state.
Bipartisan legislation developed in the Senate includes tax breaks for individuals who donate to charitable organizations. The Senate reached agreement on the issue Wednesday.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, has promised to schedule a Senate vote on the measure this year. The House already has approved a separate version of the initiative.
Mr. Bush yesterday praised the faith-based initiative.
"This legislation will not only provide a way for government to encourage faith-based programs to exist without breaching the separation of church and state, it will also encourage charitable giving as well," he said. "And we have an opportunity to capture the compassion of the country, focus it in the right direction."
For the past several weeks, Mr. Bush has urged Americans to volunteer time two years of their lifetimes in community service. The White House has started a Web site www.usafreedomcorps.gov to direct volunteers to various groups.
The president also points to faith-based groups as solutions to many of the nation's problems. In recent speeches, he has decried the "if it feels good, do it" mentality of Americans but says the nation is moving away from that since September 11.
"Once we have recognized God's image in ourselves, we must recognize it in every human being. Faith gives the assurance that our lives and our history have a moral design," he said.
Mr. Bush made one reference to Christianity at the prayer breakfast, noting that the lesson of strength gained through adversity is "central to many faiths and certainly to faith that finds hope and comfort in a cross."
The president closed his remarks by thanking the millions of Americans who have sent their prayers to him and his wife.
"In this time of testing for our nation, my family and I have been blessed by the prayers of countless of Americans. We have felt their sustaining power, and we're incredibly grateful," Mr. Bush said.


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