Updated 08/07/2012 09:04 PM
Controversy over Al Smith dinner
In what has become a longstanding political tradition, President Obama and Mitt Romney are expected to share a stage in New York City for a charity roast just a few weeks before Election Day. But now objections are being raised by some religious leaders. Our Bobby Cuza has the story.
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UNITED STATES -- Every four years, it’s become a chance for presidential candidates to lay down their swords and poke fun at politics.
“Michael Bloomberg is here. The mayor recently announced some news, made some news by announcing he’s going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term. Which caused Bill Clinton to say, ‘You can do that?’” Obama said.
“Some people call you the elite. I call you my base,” George W. Bush said.
This year’s Alfred E. Smith dinner was supposed to be no different. Both President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have accepted the invitation to appear at the event October 18th. The dinner, which honors Smith, the former governor and first Catholic presidential nominee of a major party, benefits Catholic Charities and is organized in part by the New York Archdiocese. So some Catholic leaders say Obama, who is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, shouldn’t be welcome.
Father Frank Pavone, head of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, said in a statement, “The polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to a scandal.”
“I can understand why there’s going to be an outrage,” Mike Long said.
Mike Long of the state's Conservative Party says the issue is Obama’s mandate that all employer health care plans cover contraception, even some religious charities.
Long said, “Clearly, it is challenging religious liberty. And I think that’s where the line has been crossed.”
The controversy is not a new one. John Kerry’s stance on abortion, it’s believed, is the reason neither candidate was invited in 2004. Same with President Clinton in 1996. But now, it's Cardinal Timothy Dolan presiding over the event and while he's clashed publicly with Obama over the contraception mandate, the emphasis here is on civility.
“This is not an evening that is about one person’s policies versus another person’s policies. This is not an evening about political differences and partisanship. This is an evening in which we come together for a very good cause,” Joseph Zwilling said.