(CNS) -- The nation's highest-ranking law enforcement official took the pulpit of a famous California church yesterday, maintaining that he doesn't force his faith on anyone. Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke to a near-capacity crowd at Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral, a 10,000-member, open-air church that hosts the weekly TV worship program "Hour of Power," the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Ashcroft, a lay minister and son of a Pentecostal preacher, has been criticized by some for flaunting his Christianity at the Justice Department, where he holds optional prayer meetings with staff before each workday. Speaking at Crystal's two morning services, Ashcroft didn't mention politics or his critics.
"It's against my religion to impose my religion," said Ashcroft, who "The Los Angeles Times" reported had been invited to appear by cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller and his son, Robert A., the church's co-pastor. "I have always hoped that if I were ever accused of being a Christian that there would be enough evidence to convict me," Ashcroft said. "Faith comes by hearing, not by having someone trying to beat it into you."
Ashcroft was interrupted several times by applause, and worshipers praised him after the service, the AP reported. Charlie Stahl criticized Ashcroft's critics for being unfair. "It's all right for people with radical views to be overzealous, but it's not OK for Christians to be," he said. "Ashcroft stands for that."