In Praise of Public Life -

'... a public official has a freedom of speech and freedom of religion, like everybody else.'


In February of 2000, Senator Joseph Lieberman was a guest on The 700 Club. Pat Robertson interviewed the senator about his recent book, "In Praise of Public Life." Excerpts of that interview follow.

PAT ROBERTSON: Many people hold America's political and cultural elites responsible for bringing our nation to a state of moral ruin. But some members of our government believe it's time to reestablish morality in our communities and our culture, and one of these leaders is Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Senator Lieberman is the author of the wonderful book, "In Praise of Public Life." We're so glad to have you with us on The 700 Club.

SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Pat. I'm honored to be with you.

joe leiberman
Sen. Joseph Lieberman

ROBERTSON: What do you think started this national debate on morality? It's about time, I think, but you've been in the forefront.

LIEBERMAN: Well, the debate started because we got into a kind of moral relativism here. In some ways I think it may be carrying the ideal of tolerance, which is always important to America and right at the heart of what we're about, but carrying it so far that we came to a point where we stopped being able to or being willing to say some things are just wrong and unacceptable and other behaviors are right and very necessary for a good society. And part of what I trace particularly in the last chapter of this book is what I think is the beginning of another spiritual awakening in America, which--I'm pleased to be talking to you because I think you are, really have been at the heart of it--in which people return to their religions as a way to build a kind of wall of principle around themselves to protect themselves and their families from the--from the `anything goes' mentality or morality that was being advocated by the entertainment media, and in some ways being reflected in the lives of public people.

And one of the hopeful signs that I see as I look back over three decades now in public life is that people of faith are taking their principles into the political arena, and at the end of the book, I really called for more of that. I know in some ways this is controversial, but I don't think America suffers from too much discussion or reflection of faith and religious values in public life. We suffer from too little of it. And that's one of the hopeful signs I see. I mean, basically, the book is about why public life is important in our country and why we suffer when people get turned off by it and at least I urge them to come out and vote and make a difference.

ROBERTSON: You know, I found, though, when political candidates or office holders speak boldly about their faith--I've read articles that say, "Well, they're just pandering to the right wing," or "It's nothing but politics" and so forth. I mean, their deeply held expressions of faith are often denigrated. Yours, thank goodness, are not, but many are.

LIEBERMAN: No, I agree, and I think that's a mistake. I say to people that a public official has a freedom of speech and freedom of religion, like everybody else. And if that official, in telling the voters the story about who he or she is, wants to put some emphasis on their faith and the role that God plays in their life, then that's good. That's not only their right, in my opinion, that's good. And the public will judge. If the public feels that a person is for some reason trying to take political advantage of his faith, then they'll account for it. But I think that's the right ground to take a higher level, to take our political discourse to, and honestly, we could use more of it, not less of it.

ROBERTSON: We appreciate your stand and we admire the work you're doing.

"In Praise of Public Life" Pat interviews Senator Joseph Lieberman about his book "In Praise of Public Life."