Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Jewish Groups Irked by Cross on Republican Podium

REUTERS - Speakers at this week's Republican convention make their remarks at a wooden podium that some Jewish groups find offensive because its decorative panels appear to form the shape of a Christian cross. A cross is even more visible in a waist-high gavel stand adjacent to the podium, leading some to question whether the party is trying to send a subtle message to its base among conservative Christians...

A convention spokesman declined to comment about the podium flap, telling reporters he did not understand why people were asking questions on the issue. President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, told CNN he did not think the podium's decorative woodwork looked like a cross. "My God, where do they come up with this stuff?" he said. "Does it look to you like it's a cross? I don't think so."

The hall at the convention, where Bush on Thursday will accept the Republican nomination to a second White House term, is sparse. Its three main components are a billowing stretch of red, white and blue to symbolize patriotism and the American flag, a New York skyline devoid of the World Trade Center, destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the church-like podium...

"I'm a Roman Catholic myself, but I continue to be amazed about the inappropriate dissolution of the line between church and state," said Village Voice media critic Michael Musto, adding that he saw the cross as a "subliminal nod to the religious right."

Separation of church and state is a key issue for U.S. Jewish voters and among the reasons why they typically vote for Democrats. Bush, who will accept the nomination as the Republican presidential candidate on Thursday, refers regularly to God and his religion in his speeches. With Bush neck-and-neck with his Democratic opponent Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Republicans are keen to mobilize the religious right to vote for the Texan.

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