Fox News Interview Church Agency Head In Choice of Clinton Attorney To Return Boy To Communism
Interview With Thom Fassett
Fox News: Special Report with Brit Hume
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HUME: So how was former White House counsel Greg Craig chosen to represent Juan Miguel Gonzalez? One man who's involved in the decision to hire Craig is Thom Fassett , general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, which is the international rights organization of the United Methodist Church.
And he is here to explain what happened and his organization's role.
THOM FASSETT , UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Thank you.
HUME: Now, tell me, how did it come about that Gregory Craig, who is very well known to people here in Washington, ended up representing this man from Cuba ?
FASSETT : Well, I think it's a fascinating story. The fact is that Joan Brown Campbell and I had a long...
HUME: Joan Brown Campbell is?
FASSETT : Is the former general secretary of the National Council...
HUME: Council of Churches.
FASSETT : ... of Churches.
HUME: And she's -- she was involved because?
FASSETT : She was involved because we've had a long-standing relationship on -- in working on issues related to Cuba . And so we were receiving gestures from the Cuba Council of Churches to explore the possibility of providing legal counsel for Gregory Craig.
HUME: Now, the Cuba Council of Churches was involved because -- because -- because the boy's father's a parishioner down there?
FASSETT : No, the Cuba Council of Churches is a representative organization, very much like the National Council of Churches in the United States. And it's made up of members such as the Methodist Church of Cuba ...
FASSETT : ... and the Presbyterian Church and others, and...
HUME: Right. And is Juan Miguel Gonzalez a member of any of those churches?
FASSETT : I understand that he's Catholic. Whether he's practicing or not, I don't know. But we have a long-standing relationship with the Council of Churches in Cuba , and for the reasons of developing churches, expanding our base memberships. We're the two fastest-growing churches in...
HUME: Right. How's this lead to Mr. Craig?
FASSETT : ... in Cuba . Well, it leads to Mr. Craig because it seemed that we were looking at a situation where the United States and Cuba has no diplomatic relationship, so it was impossible for a father of a child who was landing on the shores of the United States to have legal counsel, to have equal representation under the laws of the United States.
Joan and I looked about. We searched -- we consulted people on Capitol Hill. All paths led to Greg Craig. Why? We needed somebody who was prestigious, somebody from a law firm that had a great reputations, somebody who could be objective, someone who wasn't, so to speak, skewed ideologically on the issue, and...
HUME: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. He's very close to -- to the -- to the Clintons.
FASSETT : He defended the president in the impeachment hearings.
HUME: Right. He defended the president and -- and -- I mean, do you have any reason to believe that he is sympathetic to any of the views of the people in the Cuban-American community in Miami?
FASSETT : Mr. Craig?
FASSETT : I think he's sympathetic singularly, as is Juan Miguel Gonzalez, to receiving the child back for the father.
FASSETT : To the father. I think that's the singular objective that we've had all along.
HUME: So -- and he was recommended to you by -- I've heard Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont was involved.
FASSETT : He was one among many who recommended. And we talked to Greg and...
HUME: So you solicited -- he went to see him -- he didn't come -- I - - I had heard -- one account said that he went to the National Council of Churches and volunteered his services.
FASSETT : No, there are many -- there are many accounts of this...
HUME: That's incorrect.
FASSETT : I have accompanied every step of this journey, and so I'm bearing testimony to the fact that we went to talk with Gregory Craig. He explored with his own colleagues. He said, "Yes, but let's go to Cuba ."
HUME: All right, now, how...
FASSETT : "I need to talk to the"...
HUME: ... is he being paid?
FASSETT : He's being paid through a voluntary contributions fund set up by the executive committee of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.
HUME: That's your group.
FASSETT : And that's us.
HUME: Now, you -- and funds are solicited from whom for -- for...
FASSETT : The fund's a voluntary fund. People are calling up and...
HUME: I know, but...
FASSETT : ... and they're making contributions.
HUME: But how do you make known that it exists and...
FASSETT : Well, the press have done a very good job of this. We initially set it up at the request of persons who wanted to contribute funds in order to help in this effort.
HUME: Now, are you able to identify any contributors?
FASSETT : We don't -- we don't identify contributors. We don't -- it's like the battles we've fought in Congress not to open up church rolls.
FASSETT : It's an issue of church and state.
HUME: Right. Now, is there a mechanism by which you, as a representative of a Methodist organization, receive the endorsement of Methodists around the country for your operations and actions and policies?
FASSETT : We're speaking for the General Board of Church and Society and not the United Methodist Church.
HUME: Well, it is...
FASSETT : Our executive committee...
HUME: ... the General Board of Church and Society of the Methodist...
FASSETT : That is...
HUME: ... the United Methodist Church, though, right?
FASSETT : That is correct. And the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church is given the mandates by the general conference, the legislative agency that meets every four years, to implement the social principles of the United Methodist Church.
HUME: And -- and those are arrived at by -- what role do the -- do Methodists nationwide...
FASSETT : Methodists...
HUME: ... have in -- in developing those policies?
FASSETT : Methodists, United Methodists, in our quadrennial assemblies, are responsible for establishing legislation and articulating the moral and ethical imperatives of the church.
HUME: Right. But what role do ordinary Methodist parishioners who may be contributing to these causes have in -- in determining them?
FASSETT : We have a democratic system in the United Methodist Church for election of local persons to conferences and persons from conferences being elected to jurisdictions, jurisdictions to the general conference.
HUME: So it's a -- it's a series of representative bodies that end up...
FASSETT : Yes, it is...
HUME: ... participating.
FASSETT : ... and we have an international board of 63 members who provide the insights and the guidance for implementing the mandates provided by the general conference.
HUME: Now, is it troubling to you, as a man of faith, that in the country to -- from which Juan Miguel Gonzalez comes, to which this little boy will return, that freedom of religion is not practiced?
FASSETT : I have spent several hours negotiating with Fidel Castro myself. In fact, two years ago, Joan Brown Campbell, the head of the Presbyterian Church and the AME Zions, negotiated with Fidel Castro around principles of religious practice in Cuba .
FASSETT : And we negotiated four -- five points for -- we went...
HUME: Got to go.
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