Gov. Kirk Says ‘Christian Nation’ Remark Not Meant to Exclude Jews

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice on Wednesday defended his remark that “America is a Christian nation.” But a rabbi said the statement showed a frightening willingness to exclude those who are different, and the American Jewish Congress urged the national Republican chairman to repudiate Fordice’s remark.

At a Republican governors’ meeting Tuesday in Fontana, Wis., Fordice said: “The less we emphasize the Christian religion the further we fall into the abyss of poor character and chaos in the United States of America.”

The governor said Wednesday that the statement was not intended to exclude Jews.

“I simply made a clear statement of truth,” Fordice said. “It has nothing to do with running down anybody else’s religion. That’s a very far stretch that I just can’t imagine people making.”

But Rabbi Steven Engel, who leads Mississippi’s largest Jewish congregation, said he was offended by the remarks.


“There is a fine line between anti-Semitism and ignorance,” Engel said. “But we all know what happens where there is a great intolerance for people that are different in any way. You’re excluded from a society and completely outcast and I think that’s a frightening thought for everyone in America.”

In a letter to GOP National Committee Chairman Richard N. Bond, two American Jewish Congress leaders said Fordice’s remarks imply “that those who are not Christians . . . are a threat to the well-being of our nation and are unwelcome in the Republican Party.”

“If Gov. Fordice’s divisive statements . . . do not reflect the views of the Republican Party, then (Bond) and other party leaders have an obligation to say so loudly and clearly,” AJC President Robert K. Lifton and Executive Director Henry Siegman wrote.

Bond could not be reached for comment.

Fordice’s comments came when he was asked whether efforts by moderates to temper the GOP’s opposition to abortion would alienate members of the religious right.

He said Wednesday he only meant that Christianity is the predominant religion in America.