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Abortion, evolution topics of GOP debate

MANCHESTER, N.H. (BP)–On a night that lightning literally struck when Rudy Giuliani talked about abortion, the Republican candidates for president talked about a host of faith-based issues June 5, including evolution and creationism, the pro-life plank in the party platform and what they deem as the most pressing moral issue of the day.

It was the third GOP debate and the first in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary in January.

Giuliani, seeking to break recent Republican history and win the nomination as a pro-choicer, was asked his thoughts about an Internet editorial by Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, who compared Giuliani’s position on abortion — he says he hates it but wants it to remain legal — to the New Testament account of Pontius Pilate finding no fault in Christ but nevertheless handing Him over to be crucified.

As Giuliani, who is Catholic, began to speak, the audio buzzed and crackled, and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer told viewers lightning was at fault. To laughter, the candidates to each side of Giuliani — including Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain — backed a few steps away from Giuliani, as if they were in danger of being struck.

“Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that’s happening right now,” Giuliani said to laughs. “… But ultimately … I’ve got to make the decisions that I think are the right ones in a country like ours. And my view on abortion is that it’s wrong, but that ultimately government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman.”

Giuliani’s position on abortion surfaced later in the debate, when Sen. Sam Brownback, who is pro-life, voluntarily said he didn’t think the GOP “can nominate somebody that’s not pro-life … because [the issue] is at our core.” Answering a question from the audience, Brownback said the life issue is the most pressing moral issue of the day.

“We’ve been a party that has stood for a culture of life, and it was in our platform in 1980 and it continues today,” Brownback said. “… We believe that every life is beautiful, is sacred, is a child of a loving God … from conception to natural death, and that applies not only here and in the womb, it applies to somebody that’s in poverty, it applies to the child in Darfur.”

Brownback said he would be able to support Giuliani if the former New York mayor is the nominee, although Brownback made clear he doesn’t “think we’re going to nominate somebody that’s not pro-life.”

“It’s a party of principles; it’s not a party of personalities,” the Kansas senator said. “We lose when we walk away from our principles.”

The question about society’s most significant moral issue was first posed to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who answered by saying, like Brownback, it is the life issue.

“Many of us who are pro-life, quite frankly, I think, have made the mistake of giving people the impression that pro-life means we care intensely about people as long as that child is in the womb, but beyond the gestation period, we’ve not demonstrated as demonstrably as we should that we respect life at all levels, not just during pregnancy,” Huckabee said, adding that America’s respect for life stands in contrast to Islamic jihadists, who would “strap a bomb to the belly of their own child” to kill others.

“They celebrate death, we celebrate life,” he said.

Interestingly, Giuliani said he thought Huckabee “was correct,” although he said he’d “put it maybe in a slightly different way.”

“We have great gifts in this country that come to us from God,” Giuliani said. “We have a country in which we have freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom for the individual, the right to elect our own officials. And the reality is that in some of the world, much of the world, that doesn’t exist. I think the challenge for our generation is going to be, are we able to share those gifts in an appropriate way with the rest of the world?”

The issue of evolution once again surfaced when Huckabee was asked if he believes the biblical “story of creation.” During the last debate, Huckabee, Brownback and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo all raised their hands, signifying they didn’t believe in evolutionary theory. During the third debate, Huckabee at first said the question was unfair, because if elected president he wouldn’t be writing science curriculum.

“But you’ve raised the question, so let me answer it. ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.’ To me it’s pretty simple — a person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own,” Huckabee said. “… I believe there is a God who was active in the creation process. Now, how did He do it, and when did He do it, and how long did He take? I don’t honestly know, and I don’t think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.

“… [I]f I’m selected as president of this country, [Americans will] have one who believes in those words that God did create. And as the words of Martin Luther, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other.’ And I will not take that back.”

Following a follow-up question, Huckabee said, “… if anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to.”

Brownback gave his thoughts on man’s origins by citing the 11th-century Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm’s famous phrase, “faith seeking reason.” The debate was held at Saint Anselm College.

“One of the problems we have with our society today is that we put faith and science at odds with each other,” Brownback said. “They aren’t at odds with each other. If they are, check your faith or check your science.”

McCain, who during the last debate said he believed God guided evolution, said the teaching of creationism in schools is “up to the school districts.”

“But I think that every American should be exposed to all theories,” he said. “But I can’t say it more eloquently than Pastor Huckabee — Gov. Huckabee just did, and I admire his description, because I hold that view. The point is that [during] the time before time, there’s no doubt in my mind that the hand of God was in what we are today.”

All 10 candidates also indicated they support the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

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  • Michael Foust