President Bush thanked Southern Baptists for their support of two justices he appointed to the United States Supreme Court, swing votes in a recent decision upholding a federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
“I appreciate the fact that Southern Baptists understand the importance of fair-minded and impartial judges to our democracy,” Bush said Wednesday via satellite to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas. “I was proud to nominate John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court. And I will continue to nominate good judges who will interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.”
Bush applauded Southern Baptists for their commitment to “building a culture of life” and pledged to “veto any bill Congress sends me that violates the sanctity of human life.”
Tuesday an SBC official said if Sen. John Kerry had defeated President Bush in 2004, Kerry would have appointed Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court, along with another liberal justice to replace Sandra Day O’Connor.
“We would have been stuck with a six-to-three pro-abortion majority on the Supreme Court,” Richard Land, president and CEO of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said during a report. “Thank God we voted our values.”
An SBC Resolutions Committee declined to recommend a resolution submitted by one messenger urging the convention’s leaders to “exercise great restraint when speaking on behalf of Southern Baptists so as not to intermingle their personal political persuasions with their chief responsibility to represent Jesus Christ and this convention.”
Instead the convention passed a committee-proposed resolution calling on pastors to follow the example of “prophetic pastors” like W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers and Jerry Falwell to confront a culture and government “hurtling downward to new depths of moral decadence.”
The resolution challenged ministers to “stand firm in the face of continued threats to the sanctity of human life, the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman and the fundamental freedom to express our faith in the public arena.”
SBC President Frank Page told a reporter covering the annual meeting in San Antonio he disagrees with those who say preachers should stay out of politics.
“I disagree with that,” Page, pastor of First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C., told Reuters. “I do believe evangelicals need to continue to be involved in the political sphere primarily in speaking to issues rather than endorsing political candidates, though sometimes that is going to happen.”
It was President Bush’s sixth consecutive year to address the SBC via video, but never in person. The president thanked Southern Baptists for supporting and praying for the military as they “defend our people and extend the hope of freedom to the oppressed across the globe.”
Bush didn’t directly mention Iraq, like he did in 2004 and last year in sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Greensboro, N.C., to speak to the convention in person. Rice drew the loudest applause of the 2006 convention with a line celebrating the killing by U.S. troops of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.
“When possible, we are bringing terrorists to justice,” Rice said. “And when necessary, we are bringing justice to the terrorists. This is the fate that our troops delivered last week to the terrorist Zarqawi and now he will never harm, he will never murder, he will never terrorize innocent people again. That is what America stands for.”
One blogger attending the Greensboro convention last year wondered why a convention that exists to share the gospel with everyone would rejoice at the prospect of any soul going to Hell.
This year’s Southern Baptist Convention didn’t pass a resolution mentioning Iraq or the military, for the first time since 2003.
Republican politicians have been fixtures at SBC annual meetings since the movement known as the “conservative resurgence” solidified control of the convention in 1990. President George H.W. Bush spoke in person to the SBC in Atlanta in 1991, followed by Vice President Dan Quayle in Indianapolis in 1992.
Neither President Bill Clinton nor Vice President Al Gore was invited during their eight years in office, even though both were Southern Baptists.
The SBC instead issued resolutions critical of Clinton’s policies on homosexuality and abortion while he was in office. In 1993 there was an unsuccessful attempt to deny seating to messengers from Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., where Clinton was a member and sang in the choir before moving to Washington, for failure to “discipline” a wayward member.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.