WASHINGTON -- Vice President George Bush congratulated the nation's religious broadcasters for their political activism Monday but warned the exercise of power must not lead to book bans and other forms of intolerance.
'Be out front in your views, but respect those for whom religion is so personal they find public witnessing difficult,' Bush told the National Religious Broadcasters. 'We must be vigilant, but not overzealous.'
Bush, courting conservatives in advance of his run for the presidency, welcomed the political influence wielded by evangelicals as he offered advice to the broadcasters 'as a friend who believes deeply in your involvement.'
The NRB, with 1,200 broadcast organization members, most of them theologically and politically conservative, is a nonpartisan group but in recent years its annual Washington convention has been an increasingly prominent pulpit for key spokesmen, including Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggert, of the New Religious Right.
Bush's note of caution was prefaced by his observation that 'a small minority ... those who would forget the need for tolerance' seeks control of the evangelical movement and would ban such books as 'Huckleberry Finn' and 'The Diary of Anne Frank' from the schools.
'Closing our children off from the outside world will not protect them,' Bush declared.
Bush contended the absence of evangelicals from the political process led to the denial of prayer in schools and the legalization of abortion -- both the result of Supreme Court decisions -- and to the development of 'value-neutral' textbooks that ignored the historical role of religion in American society.
In calling for a restatement of 'basic ethics' in society, Bush also decried 'the disturbing incidents of racism we've seen in recent months' and called for a repudiation of racial intolerance.
'We must let our children know hatred has no place in America,' he said. 'The Ku Klux Klan is an embarrassment to Christ, whose gospel is love, and an embarrassment to our nation, whose gospel is freedom.'