Bill Moyers investigates the connection between presidential politics and Pat Robertson’s Regent University. He also speaks with libertarian Nick Gillespie.
BILL MOYERS: When people are having a good time, you don’t want to be the skunk in the garden. And people were having such a good time at that big White House welcome for Queen Elizabeth II. The NEW YORK TIMES says Her Majesty was “making Americans go weak in the knees.” Sometimes we colonials seem so dazzled by British royalty that I wonder if General Washington did defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown.
But a less playful thought also occurred. Watching the first and royal families all gussied up I couldn’t help but think of Prince Harry, the Queen’s grandson, who is headed for Iraq with a cavalry regiment, even though he’s a conspicuous target for assassination or kidnapping.
There’s angst that other members of his regiment will be put at graver risk because of his celebrity. So guess what his comrades — his fellow soldiers — are doing? Rather than petition the Queen to keep the young man home, they have gotten shirts printed up with the words across them: “I’m Harry.”
In other words, the commoners and the Prince are in this together: one for all and all for one.What a notion — that war should be the great equalizer, that no one’s son or daughter is privileged from duty or danger.
I wonder how the last four years might have been different if only our president had asked sacrifice from everyone. Instead, mostly folks from the working class and professional soldiers are doing the dying, while the rich spend their tax cuts. War on the cheap, except for those fighting it.
Watching all the wrangling in Washington this week over timetables and exit strategies and benchmarks, I wondered if it all wouldn’t come quickly to a halt if the next time they pow-wow and palaver, the president and Congress were asked to wear shirts with the words written across them, “I’m Harry.”
BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Later in the JOURNAL we’ll return to the war and its cost, but first, take a look at these pictures.
The other day many Americans observed the National Day of Prayer. Leading up to it, volunteers turned out on the West Lawn of the Capitol to hold a Bible reading marathon. Foreign participants were offered Bibles in languages other than English. In the shadow of the Capitol and blocks from the White House, it was a reminder that the wall between church and state in America more closely resembles Swiss cheese.
Across the Potomac River in Virginia, the cradle of the First Amendment, a familiar figure surely smiled as he beheld this mingling of politics and piety. If he had his way, that wall would come down altogether
Graduation day at Regent University in Virginia.
The commencement speaker charges the 1,000 graduates to go forth and change the world.
MITT ROMNEY: America needs great Americans today, perhaps more than ever. From the beginning there has been evil in the world. Today so many of our children swim in what Peggy Noonan called an “ocean of filth.” Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia tech shooter like the Columbine shooters before him had drunk from this cesspool.
BILL MOYERS: He’s Mitt Romney — Once upon a time, the moderate governor of Massachusetts, supporter of stem cell research, gun control, and choice for women.
But over time people change.
Now he’s running for the Republican nomination for president and he’s made this pilgrimage to one of the country’s most conservative evangelical schools to assure everyone here he is with them. Especially Pat Robertson.
MITT ROMNEY: This university, its students, its alumni an faculty are a testament to Dr. Robertson’s dedication to strengthen the pillars of liberty and faith, pillars that sustain our communities and our country.
BILL MOYERS: Talk about an odd couple. Over the years Robertson’s mixture of Pentecostal faith-healing,
PAT ROBERTSON: Satan I bind your power.
BILL MOYERS: And far-right ideology have made him one of the country’s quotable notables:
PAT ROBERTSON: I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.
You read the Bible it says this is my land and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he’s going to carve it up and give it away, God says “NO.”
BILL MOYERS: Pat Robertson founded Regent University “To produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world.”
PAT ROBERTSON: The idea was to challenge the culture in the areas that are most important to people. The first, of course, was television, and then the theater and journalism, and then, of course beyond that was law, which has such a dramatic effect on everybody’s lives.
BILL MOYERS: He’s never been coy about his goal of bringing American democracy and its government under God’s sway.
PAT ROBERTSON: There was never any intention that our government would be separated from God almighty. Never, never, never in the history of this land did the founders or those that came after them think that was the case.
BILL MOYERS: So what do you do when the Constitution makes no mention of God, and the Bill of Rights ensures freedom for all religions? You set out to change the laws. To have them reflect your interpretation of the Bible on church and state, women’s rights, stem-cell research, gay marriage, even when to end life support.
For such a revolution you need lawyers and judges. So as the crown jewel of his university, Pat Robertson created a law school.
PAT ROBERTSON: By the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees and recommendation of the faculty, I confer upon you the juris doctor degree with all rights, privileges and responsibilities there to pertaining.
PETER MCCLANATHAN: The students that come here come here know that it is a Christian school and that the faculty will be teaching us, they’re mostly Christians too. And it’s I think one of the more unique aspects is the beginning of class, we have classes that last ten minutes longer than most of the typical classes because there is a period for devotion.
CLASS: Heavenly Father, thou has placed me in a church which thy Son purchased with his own blood. Help me to be true, faithful, chaste. Father thank you for those who have gone before us thank you for the heritage of faith that we see stretching back over the centuries. Now we commit our class to you asking you to use it for your glory in Christ’s name, Amen.
BILL MOYERS: Regent Law School is only 20 years old and for the first decade struggled to gain recognition and accreditation. Just 37 percent of its graduates in 1999 passed the bar on the first try. Even today, the school’s academic reputation is the butt of some jokes:
BILL MAHER: It’s not a hard school to get into. You have to renounce Satan and draw a pirate on a matchbook.
BILL MOYERS: But Regent is determined to have the last laugh. Robertson’s team overhauled the curriculum, tightened admission standards, and spent more money on scholarships. The law school is now fully accredited by the American Bar Association.
Seventy-four percent of last year’s law class passed the bar the first time around.
This year a Regent team won the American Bar Association’s Negotiation competition — previously won by Harvard. Last year a Regent team won another national ABA Competition — previously won by Yale.
ANNOUNCER: Will the candidates for the degree of juris doctor please stand.
BILL MOYERS: The school is proud of its progress and makes no apologies about the blending of Biblical principles and American law in practice. Law School dean, Jeffrey Brauch:
DEAN BRAUCH: It’s one thing to have an institutional separation between church and state, which is very important, but it’s another thing to say there should be a separation between faith and law or faith and policy. I’m pleased that some of our graduates are going to go and impact public policy through their careers.
BILL MOYERS: The dean has reason to be pleased. Just consider the missionaries Regent has already sent to what the religious right once considered the heart of darkness — the government in Washington. Their website boasted that 150 of the university’s students have worked in the Bush administration since 2001.
Many have this woman to thank: Kay Coles James. For four years she ran the Office of Personnel management for President Bush.
Her reach stretched across the entire Executive Branch.
Before her White House assignment, she had been vice president of the Christian lobbying group known as the Family Research Council and dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University.
Throughout the Bush administration, the Regent network has spread — offering jobs, mentoring and promotions to bright young religious conservatives in the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, USAID, Homeland Security, The Drug Enforcement Agency, The Office of the Special Counsel, Senate and House staffs, Commerce, Education, Defense Veterans Affairs, The Air Force, The Army, The CIA, NASA and the Department of Justice.
For the Christian Right these doors open on the promised land, where Biblical law can influence the law of the land.
SPIRO BALLAS: It’s not so much that Christianity is in the class, it’s really the history and where the law comes form and when you start studying the law it’s hard to separate I think that Christian base from the law.
CARLY GAMMILL: The importance to me of having the Biblical foundation in the law is because of my belief that God’s law is the highest law. And not that earthly law and you know the law of this world is necessarily supposed to be exactly the same, but just to understand what God’s law and what the word of God does have to say about the different issues that affect our culture.
JOSHUA BLAKE: Instead of promoting the individual’s liberties necessarily, we are looking at what’s good for people as far as these values that are found in the Bible.
BILL MOYERS: Those were the values that motivated Monica Goodling when she graduated from Regent Law, Class of 1999. This is her Web site from her days as a student.
TIMOTHY GRIFFIN: Monica, how we doing…
BILL MOYERS: After graduation, Goodling worked in the war room of the Republican National Committee in the campaign of 2000, doing opposition and attack research with this man — Timothy Griffin — shown in this BBC documentary, “Digging the Dirt.”
After the election Goodling and Griffin both wound up in the Justice Department under the new attorney general John Ashcroft.
Their stars rose quickly. Griffin served as a top aide to Karl Rove. Goodling moved up to be senior counsel to Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales. She also held the portfolio as liaison between the department and the White House. At 33 years old you can’t get much more powerful than that.
But her power has landed her smack in the middle of the controversy surrounding the firing of 8 Federal prosecutors. She had been the link to the White House in the hiring and firing of Justice Department lawyers, what’s now a fast-evolving scandal.
SEN. LEAHY: What was Monica Goodling’s role in the process of evaluating U.S. attorneys and choosing U.S. attorneys for termination?
ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Senator, I don’t know of everything that she did in connection with this issue. Her job at the department was senior counselor. She worked — she was also the White House liaison. She worked on budget issues and special projects. She, in essence, supported Mr. Sampson.
BILL MOYERS: Gonzales forgot to mention the order he signed last year giving his former chief of staff and Monica Goodling — both of whom were in close contact with the White House — the extraordinary power to hire and fire more than 135 political appointees.
REP. JOHNSON: Is it correct that she-
ATTY. GEN. GONZALES: was involved in —
REP. JOHNSON: She was involved in making hiring and firing decisions pertaining to DOJ career and non-career personnel. Is that correct?
ATTY. GEN. GONZALES: Well, let me just say that she was involved with respect to political appointees. Now, with respect to career appointees, there has been some fairly serious allegations made with respect to her role in that. And as has already been made public, because of the seriousness of those allegations, that matter has been referred for an investigation.
BILL MOYERS: Follow the emails and you pick up Monica Goodling’s trail in both the dismissal of the prosecutors and in the choice of their highly partisan replacements.
Remember her old colleague from the war room, Timothy Griffin? She helped him become the new U.S. attorney in Arkansas.
Congress is now investigating to what extent the prosecutors were subjected to political pressure.
REP. JOHNSON: If in fact there was partisan political tests that were applied in the hiring of those US attorneys what impact do you believe that would have on career professionals in the department?
JAMES COMEY: That is the most, in my view, the most serious thing that I’ve heard come up in this entire controversy.
BILL MOYERS: Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey left the Department of Justice in 2005.
JAMES COMEY: You just cannot do that. You can’t hire assistant US attorneys based on political affiliation again because it deprives the department of its lifeblood which is the ability to stand up and have juries of all stripes believe what you say. And have sheriffs and judges and jailers and the people we deal with trust the Department of Justice.
BILL MOYERS: Monica Goodling has yet to answer for herself. She invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and resigned from the Justice Department on Good Friday.
House investigators will give her immunity and expect her to testify in the weeks ahead. The pundits and paparazzi are in waiting.
PRESS MONTAGE: And now that you’ve got an underling or associate or whatever you want to call Monica Goodling…
It’s just what Washington needs another Monica…
…Her mother was commenting to the press and she said that Monica’s told her to say no comment to everyone she gets…
BILL MOYERS: Monica Goodling’s meteoric rise and fall put Regent in the spotlight for merging the religious faithful with the party faithful.
But it hasn’t dimmed the passion here for its mission or the power of its network. One of its star professors now is former Attorney General John Ashcroft. This son of a Pentecostal preacher brought prayer meetings and Bible study to the halls of justice when he was Attorney General.
PRAYER: “And Lord we also thank you for your servant, John David Ashcroft.”
BILL MOYERS: It was Ashcroft who quietly began changing the Justice Department’s hiring practices. Political appointees — instead of career attorneys — were put in charge of hiring in the Civil Rights division. Soon race-based discrimination cases began to be supplanted by cases of religious discrimination.
Now, in addition to lobbying in Washington, Ashcroft is helping to recruit and train a new crop of conservative and religious young people to serve the Lord in places of influence.
REGENT UNIVERSITY WEB PROMO, ASHCROFT: I’m excited about Regent University because it’s a place where you can pursue learning and the truth with real intensity and God has not been placed off limits.
BILL MOYERS: Carly Gammill is one of the many promising students to graduate last week.
CARLY GAMMILL: Part of the goal of many of us who are going out from this institution from here on to make it clear and accurate what it really means to be a Christian leader to change the world, which is not to indoctrinate anyone but to share the truth and to offer the truth and to rely on the truth in the way that we handle our lives as an example to others.
ANNOUNCER: “Carly D. Gammill.
BILL MOYERS: Gammill is going to work for one of Regent’s best-known alumni.
Jay Sekulow earned his PhD from Regent arguing that it’s okay for judges to decide cases on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Sekulow now heads up Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, and was hand-picked by the White House to be an advisor on judicial nominations.
Last month, when the ascendant majority on the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on “partial birth” abortion. Sekulow declared victory for the religious right and for Regent.
JAY SEKULOW: Well the end result is that a lot of the findings of fact that the Court made in NY, the finding of fact in our favor about the horrific nature of this procedure were incorporated in the Supreme Court decision that came out today.
BILL MOYERS: Sekulow’s legal group wants to roll back other Supreme Court rulings that uphold gay rights and the separation of church and state. They’ll have the help of Regent’s finest.
CARLY GAMMILL: I intend to help further the administration of justice and to do justice. And I believe in absolute truth, and I believe in absolutes. Not grey, you know, not relative truth but absolute truth. And that’s what God’s word is.
BILL MOYERS: So Mitt Romney and Pat Robertson may have seemed an odd couple here this past weekend. But they are a happy couple. They have seen the future…right there in front of them
REV. PAT ROBERTSON: I am sure you will achieve greatness. We have on the platform the Attorney General of Virginia, one of our graduates, we have at least two of our graduates who are now judges, we have others who are elected officials at various levels, all over this area. We have many who are superintendents of school and principals of school.
BILL MOYERS: The Reverend Robertson couldn’t be happier. His charges are going out to make the world over…in his image.
REV. PAT ROBERTSON: We have people in all walks of life who are creating a world that is better. So once again, I charge you seek greatness through service. God bless you.
BILL MOYERS: I’m joined now by a man who keeps his eye — a most contrarian eye — on the religious right…and the religious left and everything in between, and beyond, including Democrats, Republicans, war, peace, pornography, hypocrisy and even the game Monopoly, whose history, he writes, is more epic and entertaining than passing go and landing on Boardwalk. There’s his by-line in the May issue of his magazine, REASON.
Month in and month out you won’t read a smarter magazine, and I’m not alone in that opinion. Reason has been named one of the best 50 magazines three out of the past four years and is widely acknowledged to have one of the best political blogs on the web.
REASON is the magazine for libertarians and the best known of them is reason’s Editor-in-Chief, Nick Gillespie, whose heroes include Margaret Thatcher and Madonna, and whose shoulders are so straight because in a polarized world he refuses to carry water for Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives.
Nick Gillespie, welcome to the JOURNAL.
NICK GILLESPIE: Thanks.
BILL MOYERS: Does Pat Robertson keep you awake at night?
NICK GILLESPIE: Ugh. Well, you know, a lot of things keep me awake at night, mostly thinking about the future for my two sons, which centers a lot of my political thought. But Pat Robertson and the religious right don’t worry me too much. I think in contemporary America, the high watermark for the religious might, might have come a few hours after the 9/11 attacks when Robertson and Jerry Falwell looked at the carnage at the World Trade Center, at Ground Zero, and said this was somehow the vengeance of God reaped upon an unholy nation.
And I think at that moment just as we were confronting a different kind of fundamentalist religion, one from the from the Middle East, I think you saw the high watermark of the religious right in American political discourse. Because I think most Americans said, “Okay, that’s what these guys are thinking, even if I believe that Jesus is my personal Lord and savior, that’s not something I want to be associated with.”
BILL MOYERS: But you live part of the year in Ohio.
NICK GILLESPIE: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: — which decided the election many people said because of the Christian conservatives out there.
NICK GILLESPIE: I don’t know if it’s Christian conservatives. And it also may be more important to talk about the mid-term elections in 2006 where we didn’t have any kind of great conversion away from Christianity in this country. We’re a very religious country. And I think people tend to be more observant here than they do in many other places around the world.
But in 2006 we saw what people really care about. One was a war that was misconceived from the beginning and has been prosecuted as poorly as possible. So it’s a double whammy there for the Republicans and for Bush and I think for the religious right to the extent they lay in with that.
But the other thing, and this is even more important, is that under Bush and under the Republicans where they had full control of the federal government on every level for six years, they screwed up. They said that they were going to cut spending. They said that they were going to get the government out of people’s lives, and they didn’t do that. They grew the government. They were hypocritical to their own professed ideals. And people in America don’t like the idea of being told — of having people encroach in the bedroom or in the boardroom, I think.
Even as religion is extremely important to many Americans, I think it is starting to evacuate the political sphere partly because of our engagement with Islam. I don’t think people you know, we don’t want to fight a war against Islam on some level or Islamic terrorism, religiously based terrorism and then say, “Okay, well, what we gotta do is create a theocracy here.” I don’t think it’s going to be like that.
BILL MOYERS: Don’t you think God gets tired of being introduced into all of these political debates? She has better things to do.
NICK GILLESPIE: I like to think that there may be many gods or no gods. But I’m sure all of them are annoyed at this point. But, you know, one of the questions about the religious right in America is ask them if they feel like they’re in charge or they’re on the grow. And within recent memory, Paul Weyrich, who helped co-found the Moral Majority and helped co-found the Heritage Foundation, I mean, two vast institutions of the religious right. A couple years ago he said, “You know what? We have to get out of politics ’cause we’re getting our butts kicked.”
When you look at somebody like Pat Buchanan who was the instigator of the culture wars, I mean, in Republican presidential primaries, a couple years ago he — or last year he called for a truce in the culture wars. The fact is, is that social conservatives who tend to be religious have lost the culture wars.
And I think that they recognize that. Abortion, even if Roe versus Wade gets overturned, they know that the American people are not going to go back to an era where women don’t have reproductive rights. Things, you know, other issues that are really powerful for them are just, they’re not going anywhere. They’ve lost the fight against homosexuality. I mean, there’s no way that –
BILL MOYERS: Culture’s ahead of them.
NICK GILLESPIE: Gays are not going back in the closet. And I think religious conservatives have understood that. In a real way, they have lost the culture wars and they know it.
BILL MOYERS: But when you look at that piece about Pat Robertson, you see that he’s quite serious and there are a lot –
NICK GILLESPIE: Oh, sure.
BILL MOYERS: — generation of young people coming along who–
NICK GILLESPIE: I also, you know, one of the things — because I am not religious myself but I do respect religion in many manifestations. And I realize that religion is one great source of community and meaning and significance in people’s lives. And on a certain level, I’m like, I don’t want to live in Pat Robertson’s America.
And I certainly don’t, wouldn’t have wanted to go to Regent University or have my kids go there. But I think it’s great that he’s able to do that. And I think it’s great that he’s able to create an institution that somehow embodies his ideas and concepts, as long as it’s voluntary. And I think that, you know, just showing what’s going on there in a lot of ways is one way of inoculating larger America against that. Because we are, in the end, a tolerant population, which also means that we recognize that our rights to create something like Regent University, it means that we can’t force people to worship a god or a religion or a set of politics that we don’t agree with.
This is one of the fascinating questions about religion in contemporary America is that, you know, 20 years ago Pat Robertson, and Pat Robertson is one of the guys who got Oral Roberts to build his university.
BILL MOYERS: The faith healer. Right.
NICK GILLESPIE: Yeah. Okay? But 20 years ago Pat Robertson would not have shared the stage with a Mormon, period. He would not have made common cause with Catholics. He would not have been talking up the Passion of the Christ as he did a few years go –
BILL MOYERS: But do you think that represents a union?
NICK GILLESPIE: I think what it represents is that there is a shift in religious thinking where you have conservative Jews, conservative Catholics, conservative Protestants banding together in a way that was literally unimaginable in 1980. It does not mean that the religious right is becoming more powerful, but they are squaring off more against what they see as secular.
You know, the dividing line is now not between Catholic and Protestant. It’s between secular people and religious people. By the same token, where are the places that religious thinking is being forced on people? Or not religious thinking but religious policies? And when you look at, you know, the flashpoint issues here, whether it’s prayer in school, whether it’s abortion, whether it is other manifestations of religious life, I don’t think that you see the encroachments there.
BILL MOYERS: You’re hard to figure out. I mean, here’s the cover. “Wikipedia and Beyond: Jimmy Wells’ Sprawling Vision.” An epidemic of meddling, the totalitarian implications public health. Here’s one that took my breath away. “Be Afraid of President McCain: The Frightening Mind of an Authoritarian Maverick”?
NICK GILLESPIE: I think there seems to be some themes that come through pretty loud and clear to me. And it goes back to that idea of free minds and free markets. That individuals are not only capable of taking care of themselves and figuring out what’s best for them and their loved ones, but they should be allowed to do that.
BILL MOYERS: I look at one of your recent covers and it says, “Who deserves the libertarian vote?” All right. As of now, who deserves the libertarian vote?
NICK GILLESPIE: I think any candidate, any particular candidate who says, “You know what? You know how to live your life the best and I’m going to give you the freedom and the autonomy to do that. And among other things, I’m going to get the government out of your bedroom. I’m going to take the government out of the boardroom for the most part. And I’m going to take American military, America’s military out of foreign lands.”
What we’ll do, I mean, if we want to be a shining city on a hill and all of that– and we should be. This is a fantastic country that offers up unparalleled individual freedom and personal freedom to the people living here, including illegal immigrants. And I think, you know, we’re totally pro open borders.
BILL MOYERS: Tear down that wall.
NICK GILLESPIE: And as much as possible, but any candidate who speaks to those concerns and says, you know, the best way for America to interact with the world and to turn more people on to liberty and freedom is by trading with them and by giving them access to an American lifestyle which can be adapted into particular circumstances.
BILL MOYERS: If you were put against the wall and given 30 seconds to define who you are, what would you say a libertarian is?
NICK GILLESPIE: What we believe is that in a grand tradition that dates back to the 17th century and to the founding of this country, which is that the individual should be given as much freedom to live his life or her life as he sees fit as long as he’s not screwing up somebody else. We believe in free minds. We believe in free thinking.
We believe in free speech. And we believe in free markets. We believe people and goods and ideas should be able to traverse the world as freely as possible.
BILL MOYERS: But the free market creates great wealth. But it also kicks a lot of people off the road and into the ditch. What do we do about them if you’re a libertarian?
NICK GILLESPIE: I actually, I, first, I disagree with that. I think that the free market creates a lot of wealth and that everybody is better off as a result of it. There are cases where people have, you know, where people don’t do as well as others. But in general, it raises the overall level of income, the overall level of wealth, and more importantly, the overall level of opportunities and options in people’s lives.
BILL MOYERS: So as a libertarian, what do you want the government to do?
NICK GILLESPIE: I would like to see the government, first off, shrink its mandate to things that it can really only provide. And that includes national defense and having a strong army. I’m not a pacifist. But I’m also a an anti-imperialist.
I, you know, I hate when people call those of us who are slow to invade other countries “isolationist.” I’m a non-interventionist or a military interventionist. But things that the government should be doing is, you know, national defense, certain types of road building, certain types of public works projects that are very difficult to do otherwise, like roads, things like that.
Justice system. I believe in what the Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick called the “night watchman state,” on all levels. Because people do pretty well figuring out how to regulate their own lives and manage their own lives pretty well.
BILL MOYERS: What is the back-story of this election? I mean, I watched the Republican debates and the Democratic debate. They’re not talking about what people are talking about.
NICK GILLESPIE: That’s true. The back-story of this election, though, I think is that the Republican Party could, for a long time, take for granted the 10 to 15 percent of the American electorate which reliably votes pretty libertarian. Maybe not under that name but people who are interested in social freedom and social tolerance and smaller government and fiscally responsible government.
That 10 percent is totally up for grabs now. And that’s what both parties, it’s not simply the Republicans. The Democrats need that. 10 percent in any election, in any national election is going to swing it. And the libertarians have signaled in declining numbers voting for Bush and for Republicans that they’re up for grabs.
BILL MOYERS: There’s an anomaly. I have to come back to this. You you have strong opinions about politics, parties, elections. You’re registered to vote but you don’t vote. You feel stateless? You feel lost in America?
NICK GILLESPIE: You know, it’s been so long since I’ve had political heroes that I don’t worry. I was thinking about watching the piece about Regent University and the discussion about the role of religion and the state. One of my great heroes is Roger Williams, who is, like Pat Robertson, was a Baptist.
This was the guy who was kicked — he was trained at Cambridge during the great Puritan years in the 17th century. He was a classmate of John Milton. He came to America to preach. Got kicked out of Massachusetts Bay Colony because he said, “You guys are mixing the Lord’s work with secular government.”
And he ended up founding Providence, bought land from the Indians, you know, which is almost unheard of then. Created the colony of Rhode Island. Got a royal charter for that as a place for religious tolerance.
He came up, and this is a Baptist, who, like Pat Robertson, in his heart of hearts, thought that the pope was the antichrist, or a werewolf. You know, in the popular prejudices of the days. But articulated the absolute need to have a secular government where your religious faith was a private concern that the state could not control but it also couldn’t compel any individual to worship in a particular way. And it seems to me, you know, Roger Williams may be my last political hero.
BILL MOYERS: Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of REASON, thank you for joining me.
NICK GILLESPIE: Thanks. It’s been my pleasure.
This transcript was entered on May 20, 2015.