Why in the world would Walter Cronkite be a topic here? After all, he retired several decades ago, handing his anchorship of CBS over to Dan Rather, who has also recently retired. I saw him a couple of years ago; he’s not moving around too quickly any more; but he still has his mental facilities. His name was on a fund-raising letter from the Interfaith Alliance, a group whose main interest seems to be defeating a bill to allow churches to become more politically active while maintaining their tax-exempt status. A letter from him was part of the packet. I thought that letter was quite well-written, and I’ll reproduce parts of it here, leaving out all the begging for money parts. My younger readers might keep in mind that Cronkite was so trusted by middle America that when he finally came out against the Vietnam war, it became a lost cause.
When I anchored the evening news, I kept my opinions to myself. But now, more than ever, I feel I must speak out.
That’s because I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous and growing influence of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on our nation’s political leaders.
Especially after Robertson and Falwell both shamefully blamed America’s courts and the highest levels of our government for the horrific September 11 attacks on our nation. They said it happened because we “insulted God”. Falwell went on to blame feminists, pro-choice Americans and other groups he despises.
Like you, I understand that freedom of speech is a founding principle of our nation, and I respect people with the courage to speak their minds.
As a concerned person of faith, however, I have watched with increasing alarm as the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas.
Over the years, Robertson and Falwell have gained considerable influence on local school boards, in the administration, and in Congress. They have shrewdly twisted the traditional healing role of religion into an intolerant, political platform.
Using religion as a tool to push their personal political beliefs – especially, in a time of national tragedy – not only insults people of faith and good will, it also diminishes the positive healing role religion can and should play in public life.
The Christian Coalition has more than two million members and a growing coffer of funds, helping it influence elections and political candidates.
In response, many members of Congress are forced to cave in to its demands. Even politicians – who privately dislike its tactics or are uncomfortable with its political agenda – have been scared into submission.
June 21, 2005