Did the speeches give conventiongoers a taste of what the next presidential election will hold?

Politics permeated several plenary sessions of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention in Washington, D.C., last month, hinting at what may be in store for the 1988 presidential election.

Vice President George Bush, considered a likely Republican standard bearer, addressed the several thousand broadcasters about “one core of principles” around which Americans unite. In a message reflecting President Reagan’s priorities, Bush mentioned voluntary school prayer, tuition tax credits, and the battle over abortion, and he called for less reliance on the federal government to solve problems. “Our ultimate hope is in God,” he said, “with whom nothing is impossible.”

At a crowded breakfast session, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a potential Democratic contender for the White House, was greeted with a standing ovation. He was invited to the NRB convention to “debate” Jerry Falwell, whom he has befriended over the past two years. Kennedy offered a lengthy statement about the place of religion in public life, charting fresh territory for Democrats who believe they need to reestablish ties with Americans of deep religious faith.

Falwell’s remarks on a wide range of topics followed the senator’s, and prepared questions were asked of both afterwards. No head-on confrontation took place, in an atmosphere that was both jovial and poignant. Kennedy, a Catholic, was asked how he had sustained himself emotionally through times of tragedy. “I grew up in a family where faith and prayer were extremely important, vital parts of our family life,” he said. On the night his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated, he said he ...

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