Dennis Campbell
April 30, 2004
Candidate affirms his support of slavery
By Dennis Campbell

WASHINGTON We caught up with Sen. John Kerry as he prepared to debate fellow Democrat Stephen Douglas for the right to challenge likely Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election.

We wanted to clarify Sen. Kerry's position on slavery, the most divisive issue in American politics. Republicans will campaign on a strong anti-slavery platform, while Democrats are equally staunch in their support of the "peculiar institution."

Yesterday at a noontime rally, Sen. Kerry defended the rights of slaveholders in the face of mounting criticism from Christian clergy, who call slavery immoral and an affront to Christianity.

Responding to abolitionists picketing the rally with signs saying "Shame, shame Mr. Kerry," he said that as a Christian he personally opposes slavery but supports the rights of property owners.

Spokesman David Wade said Sen. Kerry believes the separation of church and state "helped make religious affiliation a non-issue in American politics."

"I believe that in the year 1860, we deserve a president who understands that a stronger America is where property owners' rights are just that: Rights, not political weapons to be used by politicians of this nation," Sen. Kerry told cheering slavery proponents.

He urged leadership to "protect the right of choice," noting that the Supreme Court upheld the right of slave ownership in the 1857 Dred Scott decision.

Sen. Kerry graciously agreed to a question and answer session. Following are excerpts from our conversation.

Sen. Kerry, what is your basic position on this issue?

"Slavery should be rare, but it should be safe and legal, and the government should stay off of the plantation."

Do you believe slavery is permitted under our Constitution?

"I believe the right of privacy is a constitutional right. The right to privacy is not pro-slavery, it is the rights of property owners. Protecting the right to privacy is protecting the full measure of rights of property owners in this country.

"The right to choose didn't just happen. People made it happen.... We need to energize a new generation of citizens who care about freedom who care about respect for property owners."

It has been two years since Dred Scott. Please respond to some comments by opponents of the decision: The New York Tribune wrote that "The decision, we need hardly say, is entitled to just as much moral weight as would be the judgment of a majority of those congregated in any Washington bar-room."

The Chicago Tribune editorialized that "We must confess we are shocked at the violence and servility of the judicial revolution caused by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. We scarcely know how to express our detestation of its inhuman dicta or fathom the wicked consequences which may flow from it . . . . To say or suppose, that a free people can respect or will obey a decision so fraught with disastrous consequences to the people and their liberties, is to dream of impossibilities."

"The second anniversary of Dred Scott marks the year when property owners who were not afraid to stand up and fight won a victory for choice. But today, it also marks a moment when all Americans must stand up and fight harder than ever to preserve this victory. Never in my years in public service have the rights of property owners been at such risk....

"I have always believed that property owners have the right to control their own property, their own lives, and their own destinies. And I am proud that I am the only presidential candidate to pledge that I will support only pro-choice judges to the Supreme Court. Some may call this a litmus test but I call it a test of our will to uphold a Constitutional right that protects property owners' rights to choose and to make their own decisions."

As a professing Christian, you have been under increasing criticism by church leaders for your pro-slavery position. How do you answer your critics?

"We have a separation of church and state in this country [and] I will be a president who happens to be Christian, not a Christian president... I don't tell church officials what to do, and church officials shouldn't tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life.

"I think that it's important to not have the church instructing politicians."

Any final comments?

"I trust property owners to make their own decisions. Republicans do not. And that's the difference. We will never, ever let this right be taken away."

© Dennis Campbell


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