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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 21, 2005
President Addresses Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting
11:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Bobby, thank you very much for your kind introduction. And thank you for letting me address this convention. I'm so honored to be able to speak to you from Washington, D.C. And Bobby, I appreciate you. I appreciate you for wearing our nation's uniform and for earning the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart as an Army officer. I know you share in my sentiments when I say that we are grateful for the goodness and courage of the men and women of our military. We're grateful for the support and sacrifices of our military families. And I want to thank the Southern Baptists' campaign to send out postcards to our troops in the field. I appreciate what you're doing. Our men and women appreciate even more. They appreciate your prayerful support as they protect our liberty.
Laura and I also want to -- at least I want to tell you, on behalf of Laura, that we really appreciate your prayers, the prayers of our Baptist friends that have sustained us and uplifted us. I cannot tell you the number of times Americans have said to me, "Mr. President, I pray for you and your family." And I tell them the same thing I'm telling you now -- that is the greatest gift anyone can give to me and Laura, and thank you for your prayers.
From the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, the men and women who founded this nation in freedom relied on prayer to protect and preserve it. In 1789, President George Washington called America's Baptists the "firm friends" of liberty. Today, another President George W. thanks you -- because more than two centuries later, you remain firm in your dedication to God and country.
You believe that the ideal of religious liberty is a free church in a free state. And you know that freedom is a divine gift that carries serious responsibilities. We are called by our Creator to use this gift of freedom to build a more compassionate society -- where families are strong, life is valued, and the poor and the sick can count on the love and help of their neighbors.
Building a more compassionate society starts with preserving the source of compassion -- the family. Strong families teach children to live moral lives and help us pass down the values that define a caring society. And Southern Baptists are practicing compassion by defending the family and the sacred institution of marriage. Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by local officials and activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.
And for the good of our legal system, I will also continue to nominate federal judges who faithfully interpret the law and do not legislate from the bench. Every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate, and I thank you for your strong support of the fair-minded jurists I have named to the federal courts.
Building a more compassionate society also depends on building a culture of life. A compassionate society protects and defends its most vulnerable members at every stage of life. A compassionate society supports the principles of ethical science. When we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human dignity, so that's why we stand against cloning. A compassionate society rejects partial-birth abortion. And I signed a law to end that brutal practice and my administration will continue working to defend that law. To advance a culture of life, I was proud to sign the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
A compassionate society will not sanction the creation of life only to destroy it. At the White House I recently met with 21 remarkable families, each of whom either adopted or gave up for adoption frozen embryos that remained after fertility treatments. The children I met confirm our shared belief that America can pursue the tremendous possibilities of science and at the same time remain an ethical and compassionate society. With your continued dedication and work, we will continue building a culture of life in America, and America will be better off for it.
Finally, building a more compassionate society requires that we mobilize our nation's armies of compassion to help the poor, the sick, and those who hurt. America's faith-based institutions change hearts every day. And we depend on the work of these organizations to bring hope to harsh places. Yet for too long, governments have discriminated against faith-based programs -- just because they have a cross or a Star of David or a crescent on the wall. And that's why I signed an executive order that said that faith-based groups providing social services are entitled to the same access to federal money as other groups. I am proud that we have now opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes our faith-based charities. For example, my administration awarded College Park Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida $5.8 million to build 68 homes for low-income seniors.
Because faith-based groups should never have to forfeit their religious liberty to get federal dollars -- and that's an important concept -- we want your help, we want your love, but at the same time, you do not have to forget the mission of faith or ignore the mission of faith that calls you to action in the first place. And that's why the executive order I signed should be codified into federal law. Congress needs to pass charitable choice legislation to forever guarantee equal treatment for our faith-based organizations when they compete for federal funds.
Southern Baptists are the soldiers in the armies of compassion at home and abroad. You're bringing hope to the continent of Africa, and I thank you for that. In Uganda, Southern Baptists have emphasized abstinence and helped as that country reduced the percentage of people infected with HIV by more than two thirds in less than a decade and a half. And in Sudan and other countries across Africa, the Samaritan's Purse ministry provides food and water and medical care and education to suffering people.
Helping Africa is a mission we share. I recently announced $674 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Africa. We and our African partners have together brought lifesaving AIDS treatment to more than 200,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa, we're on track to meeting a five-year goal of treating nearly two million African adults and children for HIV/AIDS.
Service to others is a long Baptist tradition. One of the most popular hymns in the Baptist hymnal cries out to the Lord, "Thy compassions, they fail not." The compassion of Southern Baptists toward your neighbors in America and around the world has helped heal broken hearts. Where there is despair, you provide hope, and you help those who need love find love. As you work to feed the hungry and provide shelter for the homeless, you are changing America and the world for the better -- one heart, one soul, and one conscience at a time.
I've come to your convention via video to thank you for all you do. Thank you for your love for your country. Thank you for your love for your neighbor. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
END 12:08 P.M. EDT