Jewish groups lined up with Arab and Muslim organizations yesterday to hammer Sen. John McCain for calling the U.S. a "Christian nation" that should have a Christian President.
McCain's remarks were "disappointing and disturbing to say the least," said Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League. He called on the Arizona Republican to retract them.
"Absolutely nothing in the Constitution establishes that the U.S. is a Christian nation," Foxman said, "nor is it accurate to say that this nation was founded on Christian principles."
The American Jewish Committee also challenged McCain's statements last week to the religion and faith Web site Beliefnet in which he said that while he wouldn't rule out a non-Christian President, a Christian is preferable because, "I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead."
In a statement later, McCain Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker said the rights and values in the Constitution were "rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition." That was all McCain was trying to convey, she said, "and it is hardly a controversial claim."
A Jewish colleague, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), defended McCain, saying "he does not have a bigoted bone in his body."
But American Jewish Committee general counsel Jeffrey Sinensky said, "To argue that America is a Christian nation, or that persons of a particular faith should by reason of their faith not seek high office, puts the very character of our country at stake."
McCain's comments earlier drew fire from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute, yesterday charged that McCain was following other GOP presidential hopefuls in pandering to the religious right. (MORE)