Final Presidential Debate Touches on Candidates' Faith and Abortion Stances

President Bush and Sen. John Kerry comment on the role of their faith in policy decisions and defend their stances on abortion.
( [email protected] ) Oct 14, 2004 09:55 PM EDT

Both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry acknowledged faith would play some type of role in their presidency during the last and final presidential debate last night.

During one part of the debate, moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, said the president

once answered he had checked with a higher authority regarding the invasion of Iraq when asked if he had checked with his dad before or after the invasion.

Bush, a Protestant, admitted that his faith “plays a big part in my life.”

“When I was answering that question what I was really saying to the person was that I pray a lot,” he continued. “And I do. And my faith is a very, it's very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops in harm's way. I pray for my family. I pray for my little girls.”

However, Bush said he was “mindful in a free society” that people have the freedom of choosing whether to worship. “You're equally an American if you choose to worship an Almighty and if you choose not to. If you're a Christian, Jew or Muslim you're equally an American,” said the president.

He said that while he does not want to impose his religion on anybody else, he makes decisions based on principle such as his decision in Afghanistan upon his belief that we should love neighbors as ourselves.

“I believe that God wants everybody to be free,” Bush stated, “And that's one part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can't tell you how encouraged how I am to see freedom on the march. And so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me. And religion is a part of me.”

Kerry also acknowledged the diversity of faiths in America and how “people all find their ways to express it.” Although he said he respected the president’s faith and shares it, he said faith alone is not enough.

“I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this plane,” said Kerry, who is Roman Catholic.

“The president and I have a difference of opinion about how we live out our sense of our faith,” he added. “I talked about it earlier when I talked about the works and faith without works being dead. I think we've got a lot more work to do.”

Abortion Issues, particularly the Roe v. Wade decision, were also touched on during the debate.

Mr. Schieffer asked Kerry for his reaction to a New York Times report on Catholic archbishops who told their church members it was a sin to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate based on his support for abortion and unlimited stem-cell research.

Kerry said he respects their views but disagrees with them. Although he is Catholic, he said he didn’t want to force his views on others.

“What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice, a woman's choice is between a woman, God and her doctor,” he responded. “I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade.”

In contrast, Bush supported pro-life efforts, saying, “It’s important to promote a culture of life.”

“I think a hospitable society is a society where every being counts and every person matters. I believe the ideal world is one in which every child is protected in law and welcomed to life,” he said.

He added that the best option for society would be to reduce the number of abortion through such efforts as the Partial-Birth Abortion Act.

“I understand there's great differences on this issue of abortion. But I believe reasonable people can come together and put good law in place that will help reduce the number of abortions.”