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NASHVILLE (AP)_Conservative religious leader Rev. Jerry Falwell credited evangelicals for putting President George Bush in office in 2004 and said the Christian group now has its eye on defeating Hillary Clinton should she run in the next presidential election.
"The church won the 2004 elections and don't let anyone tell you any differently," Falwell told a crowd of about 9,000 attending Southern Baptist Convention Pastor's Conference, a prelude to the two-day annual SBC convention which starts Tuesday.
"Now we've got a bigger challenge ahead of us. We've got to deal with Hillary in '08," Falwell said Monday, amid cheers and clapping from audience members in the Gaylord Convention Center in downtown Nashville. Showing no signs of recently being hospitalized, the 71-year-old Falwell said he was "too old to care or be intimidated" by those who oppose him.
"I had a close call earlier this year. For the first time, I realized I was mortal," Falwell said.
In April, Falwell was released from the hospital after a nine-day stay for respiratory problems. It was the second time this year he was hospitalized, leaving the hospital March 4 after 13 days and spending part of the time on a ventilator for a viral infection.
Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore also spoke before Falwell's 40-minute speech. Moore,who lost his job as chief justice last year after defying a federal order to remove a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments monument he had installed in the state courthouse, said some judges are overstepping their duties.
"Separation of church and state doesn't mean separation of God and government," Moore said. "Rule of law doesn't mean rule of man. Without the acknowledgment of God, there would be no First Amendment."
In his recently released book, "So Help Me God," Moore recounts his two-year fight to publicly display the Ten Commandments in the judicial building's rotunda.
He was the first chief justice in Alabama's history to be expelled from office for refusing a federal judge's order to remove the monument. He appealed his removal to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost.
Andrew Smith, who was attending the conference with his mother and father who is a Baptist pastor in Middle Tennessee, said he believed Moore was brave for trying to install the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.
"There needs to be more judges like him," Smith said. "These liberal judges put their own opinion in instead of just interpreting the law."
Since its organization in 1845 in Augusta, Ga., the SBC has grown to more than 16 million members who worship in more than 42,000 churches in the United States.
President Bush is scheduled to address SBC members via satellite Tuesday morning, marking the fourth year in a row he has spoken to the annual meeting. At last year's speech, Bush said his administration would work to build a "culture of life" and uphold the sanctity of marriage.
Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 6/21/2005
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