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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Jury Selection Continues in Jackson Trial; Bible Belt Backlash

Aired February 14, 2005 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Happy Valentine's Day. Appreciate your joining us tonight.
Also ahead tonight, in search of a jury for the king of pop.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The Michael Jackson trial. Prospective jurors selected and rejected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you have liked to have served on this jury?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes and no.

ZAHN: A long list of celebrities. Even Jackson's own children may take the stand.

And deep in Virginia's Bible Belt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christians are an easy target.

ZAHN: Backlash over public school students taking Bible class.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we begin tonight with the Michael Jackson trial and one word that sums it all up: slow. The bottom line, jury selection could take three more weeks. Attorneys questioned only 18 people today. Nobody has been picked yet, but there are dozens more people to question.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): They started the day with 113 prospective jurors. The goal, whittle the pool down to 12 jurors and eight alternates who can serve for what could be a six-month trial. This man was dismissed early for medical reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you have liked to have served on this jury?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes and no. I think it's going to be very interesting, time-consuming, and that's one reason that the doctor got me off, on account of the time element involved.

ZAHN: Prospective jurors range in age from 18 to 80-plus. Most are white, one-third Hispanic. Only a half dozen are African- American; 67 prospective jurors known someone who has met Jackson or spent time at his ranch. A few say they or someone close had been the victim of inappropriate sexual behavior.

In court today, both the prosecution and defense read off long lists of potential witnesses. The defense list has nearly 100 names, including Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Jay Leno, Quincy Jones, Larry King, basketball star Kobe Bryant, CBS' Ed Bradley, who interviewed Jackson's accuser. British journalist Martin Bashir is on the defense list because of his controversial 2003 documentary showing Jackson and his accuser holding hands. Jackson's own children, Paris and Prince Michael, are also on the defense list.

Not on anyone's list, but a constant presence outside the courthouse, are the fans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy Valentine's Day, Michael. Happy Valentine's Day, everybody.

ZAHN: They're loud, loyal and come from all parts of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tennessee. About a month ago, I traveled five days on a Greyhound Bus to get here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To support Michael.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Among the prosecution's star witness, the boy who accused Michael Jackson of molesting him back in 1993 and his family. They settled out of court, reportedly for millions.

Well, since there are no cameras are allowed in the courtroom, Associated Press correspondent Linda Deutsch, a veteran of the O.J. Simpson case and other high-profile cases, is the news media's eyes and ears. And she joins me now.

Always good of you to join us, Linda. So, we got our first glimpse of the defense witness list today, with names like Kobe Bryant, Elizabeth Taylor, Jay Leno, Stevie Wonder, Chris Tucker, Larry King. Where is the strategy here?

LINDA DEUTSCH, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it certainly sounded like a preview of coming attractions and it sounded like a really big star list. Whether any of these people will actually testify remains to be seen.

We heard a list of over 100 people. Some of them, you can get the idea of what they might say. I'm sure Elizabeth Taylor would talk about what a wonderful man Michael is, who she has been with him with various children's projects, things like that. But some of them are a little more oblique. For instance, they put Michael Jackson's two children on the list. ZAHN: Based on the questions the defense was asking today, what can we learn about the direction it might go in?

DEUTSCH: Well, Tom Mesereau, the defense attorney, was looking at how jurors feel about children testifying, whether they believe that children can be prodded by their parents to lie on the witness stand. And that's a big issue, because the accuser of Michael Jackson will be the star witness.

And he is 15. He was 13 at the time this allegedly occurred. And the defense is already beginning their attack on his credibility.

ZAHN: What were the prospective jurors like that you saw today?

DEUTSCH: The prospective jurors are very middle-class. They are all from Santa Maria. A lot of them are parents of small children, we found out, because they talked about it. A number of them were Michael Jackson fans. One woman said, when she was in high school, she was a cheerleader and she did a whole number to a Michael Jackson song.

Michael kind of got a kick out of that in the courtroom. A few of them said they own the record album "Thriller." They certainly know who he is. But we also have people who have had histories in their families of sad incidences of people being accused of molestation and things that are very, very relevant in this case.

ZAHN: You mentioned that Michael Jackson got a kick out of some of the prospective jurors and what they were saying. But, overall, what was his reaction to some of the other jurors?

DEUTSCH: Michael Jackson was very engaged in the process. He was focusing very strongly on what was being said. He did not take notes or anything, but he did confer with his lawyer. And when there was anything to react to from the jurors, he reacted. If they talked about problems with their children, he shook his head, yes, like he understood as a father.

I think that he was very involved in what was going on. He was looking pleasant. When they came in, he stood up and he smiled. He's involved in this process, and he's looking at the people that may be the ones that will judge him.

ZAHN: Well, he certainly didn't dress subtly today, did he, Linda?

DEUTSCH: Michael Jackson is a star. He's an entertainer. And I think that we will never see him in the courtroom in a pinstriped suit. He has a wardrobe that is very colorful, very glitzy. Today, it was pretty glitzy.

It was a red satin shirt, possibly for Valentine's Day, with a black suit and a gold vest and a gold belt and a broach on his pocket. He was just all aglitter. But, on him, it looks good.

ZAHN: Linda Deutsch, as always, thanks so much for your observations.

When a celebrity like Michael Jackson goes on trial, the defense in the courtroom is only part of the picture. There's also the battle for public opinion out of court.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): There have been many faces in Michael Jackson's mirror, artistic, physical, legal. Jackson's latest transformation, just a day before the jury was to be chosen, he released this court-approved videotaped statement.

MICHAEL JACKSON, DEFENDANT: Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court. I deserve a fair trial, like every other American citizen. I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.

ZAHN: Industry insiders believe Jackson is being advised by a team of P.R. people who have managed to remain out of the media spotlight. Fraser Seitel, a media analyst and author of the book "The Practice of Public Relations," says this is all part of the plan.

FRASER SEITEL, MEDIA ANALYST: Surprisingly, for somebody who is a bit off center, this video was effective, sophisticated even, even subtle, which is a word you don't hear with Michael Jackson much, very effective use of communication.

The strategy was clear. First of all, they released it right before jury selection, so they wanted to influence potential jurors. Made sense. The venue, putting it on a video on the Web, made great sense, because he's a terrible interviewee. He's outrageous as an interviewee. So you counsel him. You say, look, let's go directly to the people, keep you on a short script, make it brisk and, therefore, you'll get through.

ZAHN: But could this new concise style work in Jackson's favor?

SEITEL: He says, I love my community, but I have great faith in the system. And what I'm asking you is to keep an open mind. Who are you? The public, the community and potential jurors again. In other words, there's a goal here. Keep an open mind and allow me to have my day in court.

It is almost, if you'll pardon the expression, brilliant as a public relations, media relations, communications device.

ZAHN: Whatever the outcome, Seitel believes Jackson's videotaped message has much improved since 1993, when he first faced accusations of child molestation.

JACKSON: There have been many disgusting statements made recently concerning allegations of improper conduct on my part. These statements about me are totally false. As I have maintained from the very beginning, I am hoping for a speedy end to this horrifying, horrifying experience to which I have been subjected.

ZAHN: Twelve years ago, Jackson faced a civil suit, not criminal charges, and he settled out of court.

SEITEL: He settled for reportedly $20 million. The tape was emotional. He was frenetic. He was overdramatic and so on. I think it's clear that he's got new, much more savvy advisers. And they learned from the first one, which was bad.

ZAHN: His look now has been carefully planned.

SEITEL: The focus, therefore, goes to him. The focus is on his words. And that's what they wanted you to focus on, the fact that he is making an argument that is serious and straightforward and direct and maybe even believable, so your focus is on him. The choreography of it, it works.

ZAHN: The question remains, which Michael Jackson will people remember?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, how did it come to this? We're going to take you back to Michael Jackson's glory years in a just minute. Were there clues even then?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, "FACE YOUR FEAR": He would always give me these rational and intelligent explanations as to why. His success was directly tied to him choosing to remain a child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The early years and hidden secrets next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

These days, when you say the name Michael Jackson, a lot of people think of a guy dancing on the roof of an SUV. But it wasn't always that way.

And, in our "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" segment, Sharon Collins remembers the king of pop before he became the king of the tabloids.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how we first saw Michael Jackson, a charismatic, precocious pop star singing songs like "I Want You Back" with his brothers, the Jackson 5.

TOURE, "ROLLING STONE": He opened his mouth and this amazing voice came out.

COLLINS: Yet, this is the same person, the child who became the biggest star in the world now on trial facing charges of child molestation. MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY FOR JACKSON: Michael has given me the authority to say on his behalf these charges are categorically untrue.

COLLINS: For more than 30 years, we've been fascinated by Michael Jackson.

JOHN NORRIS, SR. CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: Nothing would be the same without Michael Jackson.

COLLINS: We've watched as he's transformed himself from an African-American youth to something completely different.

CRAIG MARKS, EDITOR, "BLENDER": He raised the bar for image makeovers to a point where no one else wants to even come close to it.

COLLINS: He's arguably the most famous man on planet earth, yet seems to live in a child-like world of his own construction.

BOTEACH: He would always give me these rational and intelligent explanations as to why his success was directly tied to him choosing to remain a child.

COLLINS: But what is reality and what is image making? Where does the truth start and the myth end? Who does Michael Jackson see when he looks at the man in the mirror?

J. RANDY TARABORRELLI, BIOGRAPHER: There is no star like Michael, no celebrity like Michael and no person like Michael. He is completely unique.

COLLINS: Michael Jackson grew up in Gary, Indiana, the seventh of nine children. Their steel worker father, Joe, turned five of his boys into a band with a then 5-year-old Michael right out front.

PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE": He was a symbol for the consummate entertainer. You know, not since Sammy Davis Jr., had someone come along with such a diverse range of talents.

COLLINS: As seen in this video from a documentary produced by Michael Jackson, the group auditioned for Motown Records and got a record deal.

TARABORRELLI: From the time most kids were building tree houses, Michael Jackson was building an image. At the age of 10, he was told to say that he was 8. And Michael was happy to play along with that, because he understood at a very early age that image making and public relations was very important.

COLLINS: It worked. The Jackson 5 exploded on to the pop charts. Their first three singles, I Want You Back, ABC and The Love You Save, all hit No. 1.

TOURE: The sound was incredible. The weight, the gravity, the way he would sing and then he would dance, you know. I mean, his brothers are on stage with him. You couldn't stop him. COLLINS: But behind the image of the happy family and their rags to riches story, there was something else, incredibly hard work and a father who pushed his children and has publicly admitted to whipping Michael with a switch and a belt.

TARABORRELLI: When Michael discusses these beatings today, he gets very emotional. It's clear that he hasn't come to terms with any of that yet.

BOTEACH: On the one hand he would always complain my father didn't love me enough. My father made me into a performance machine. My father was too strict. He was too much of a disciplinarian. He would make me rehearse too much. I would see kids on the monkey bars and I would cry because I couldn't have a childhood.

COLLINS: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was a friend and spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson for two years.

BOTEACH: I said to him, look at the flip side of that. Because of that, you became a big performer. And maybe even because you weren't given enough love as a child, you wanted the world's love. So you worked really hard, perfecting your dance moves and you became a big superstar. Would you trade it in for a normal childhood and give up the celebrity? And interestingly he'd say to me every time, no, I wouldn't do that.

COLLINS: Jackson and his brothers appeared in commercials and became pre-teen idols. However, Jackson's teenage years were awkward. He suffered from bad acne and was self-conscious of his appearance.

BOTEACH: He did say to me that he was once on an airplane and his father said to him, you know, your nose isn't nice, or something like that. And generally, he expressed to me that he was made to feel that he was ugly, that he was not pretty. And, sadly, he really internalized that message.

COLLINS: In 1979, 21-year-old Michael Jackson was ready to spread his wings. He released his first solo album as an adult, "Off the Wall." The album was a smash with songs such as "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough," and "Rock With You," reaching No. 1.

NORRIS: They are songs that still hold up today. They don't sound dated. I guess what none of us could have anticipated was the album that they would then produce after "Off the Wall."

COLLINS: That album was 1982's "Thriller" and it would catch fire when Jackson unveiled an out-of-this-world dance move on a television special for Motown's 25th anniversary.

NORRIS: What a moment that was in pop culture history, when he moon walked across the stage there.

TOURE: So he's doing the moonwalk, which when he first did it, nationally, it was like, wait, is gravity being, like, messed with here, special effects, like what are we doing? And I mean, you know, within six months, every 10-year-old in Dallas could do it. COLLINS: The transformation was complete. Michael Jackson was about to go from child pop star to the biggest star on the planet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was Sharon Collins reporting for us. Tomorrow, in our "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" segment, we will follow Michael Jackson from his record-shattering "Thriller" album to some of the baffling changes and scandals.

Well, Alicia Keys added to her Grammy collection last night, big time, but you'll never guess where some of her songs come from.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: What's your favorite place to write songs?

ALICIA KEYS, MUSICIAN: It can be on my tour bus. It can be in my hotel room. It can be in my bedroom. Definitely by my piano is a top-10 place.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Has a hit song come out of the bathroom yet?

KEYS: Plenty of hits come out of the bathroom.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Meet one of music's brightest, most talented stars next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Grammy goes to -- yes! "The Diary of Alicia Keys," Alicia Keys.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Stretched those legs a lot last night. If you watched the Grammys, as I did, you heard that phrase four times. Keys won for best R&B album, best female R&B vocal performance, R&B performance by a duo, a group with vocals, and the best R&B song, not a bad showing for her second album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys."

It was just four years ago that Keys burst onto the scene. And she has been winning over fans ever since. I recently sat down with her here in New York, where she grew up for a "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" profile.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN (voice-over): She may be just 24, but Alicia Keys writes, sings and play the piano with the sure touch of a veteran. Four years ago, she stunned the music industry with her debut album, "Songs in A Minor" and the hit single "Fallen." The album sold five million copies and won five Grammys, a rare achievement for a debut effort.

(on camera): How have you dealt with this process of becoming an overnight sensation?

KEYS: Well, I think the main thing is that it definitely didn't happen overnight. So, for me, personally, that helps me a lot.

The way the I dealt with just everything that was happening simultaneously I felt like, in effect, was really just keeping people that I loved and trusted and cared about around me.

ZAHN (voice-over): Most of all, her Italian-born mom, who raised Alicia on her own. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan.

TERRI AUGELLO, MOTHER OF ALICIA KEYS: It was cozy. Every couple of years, Alicia used to tell me where she wanted to sleep, so we would make her bedroom accordingly. Sometimes, she had the bedroom. Sometimes, I did.

ZAHN: Mom was an actress. And by the time Alicia was in kindergarten, she, too, felt the lure of the limelight.

AUGELLO: They were doing "Cats." And I didn't know until I came to see the show that she was singing "Memories." And she was only 4. It was quite extraordinary.

ZAHN: Mother and daughter shared a passion for music.

KEYS: That was probably our best times for like on Sundays. I would climb up on the little stool and there were these shelves of records. And I would go through it and see Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis and just all kinds of old jazz records.

ZAHN (on camera): You tap into classical music.

KEYS: Definitely.

ZAHN: Rap, just about anything you hear.

KEYS: Definitely. I feel blessed from where I grew up, because it was a very diverse neighborhood. You could walk down the street and you could hear salsa. You could her merengue. You could hear Biggie Smalls. You could hear Mozart. No one has to be a certain way. You can be yourself. And I love that about New York.

ZAHN (voice-over): And before her 10th birthday, Alicia found the key to her future.

KEYS: A friend of my mother's was moving somewhere else. And she had a piano and she couldn't take it. And she said, if you can move it out of this apartment, you can have it. And then, for my first time, I had this brown upright player piano.

ERIKA ROSE, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: Something about, it's magnetic. It just draws her in. And no matter where we are, if she sees a piano, she goes directly to it. And she will just start playing, no matter what time of night it is.

KEYS: I did have a really great piano teacher. She was really about helping us to discover the things we loved about the piano, as well as of course the discipline that comes with studying. You have to -- there's no way around that.

ZAHN: Music teacher Aziza Miller would shape the young Alicia's trademark sound.

AZIZA MILLER, MUSIC TEACHER: I started a jazz improvisation class, vocal, that met after school. And you know how a lot of children, after school, are you kidding? I want to get out of here. But, again, her ambition and her drive and her love for the music, if you had to meet after school, she's there.

KEYS: Ms. Aziza really showed me the beauty of harmonies. And that was the first experience I had watching an individual really develop a song and make it sound the way they wanted it to and arrange it.

ZAHN: Alicia started performing at a community club in Harlem, where the man who's now her manager spotted her.

JEFF ROBINSON, MANAGER: She sang a song on stage. I'm like, OK, she's got a little twang to her, a little swagger. And then she sat down at the piano and started playing songs that she had written. And this girl's like 13, 14 years old, and she's already singing songs about the state of the world and what have you. And I was like, wow.

ZAHN: Intelligent and mature beyond her years, Alicia Keys was soon in great demand. At just 16, she was offered a scholarship to Columbia University and a $1 million deal by Columbia Records. She accepted both, but soon found out she couldn't cope.

KEYS: Everything was just upside down. It was all turned around. And I tried to make my classes late, so that I could do my homework in the morning and I would be at the studio all night. And it was just a wreck.

AUGELLO: I know she was sitting on the couch one day after class. And I knew that she had -- she had -- she had taken a leave. It broke my heart.

ZAHN: For a while, it seemed leaving college was the wrong move, as Columbia Records tried to make a teen pop star out of her, and she resisted.

KEYS: I was very depressed and very sad, because I felt like I was trying to do all these things. And I had this vision of what I could do and who I could be in my head, but it just wasn't coming into reality. ZAHN: When we continue Alicia's story, how meeting a music legend gave her new inspiration.

And the experience in Africa that changed her forever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Boy, did she nail it last night. Alicia Keys performing at the Grammy Awards, where she won four awards in all. Those honors are a sign of just how she's come in five years, when she was in a battle with her record label, and her future seemed bleak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): At the age of 17, Alicia Keys was resisting music executives' attempts to mold her into the next Mariah Carey.

In desperation, her manager reached out to other record companies and set up a meeting with industry veteran Clive Davis.

KEYS: I first walked in, and they had all these pictures of all these artists that he worked with, and Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen and Santana. And he really understood music and he really cared about it.

CLIVE DAVIS, CHAIRMAN, BMG NORTH AMERICA: When you hear her voice, when you study the lyrics of her material, it's what I call a no-brainer.

You just know that you're in the presence of somebody who could become an all-time great.

ZAHN: Newly energized, Alicia went back into the studio, and in the summer of 2001, reemerged with "Songs in A Minor."

Soon, there was a real buzz about the girl who could play Tupac, '70s soul and 18th century sonatas.

JOE LEVY, ROLLING STONE: She could write and she could play the piano. And she couldn't just play the piano, she didn't just love Stevie Wonder, she knew her Chopin.

ZAHN: "Songs in A Minor" appealed both to kids hooked on hip-hop and moms who like country.

LEVY: Alicia Keys is making music that looks 20 years, 30 years behind. It's trying to lead us into the future by saying, hey, we're coming here on the shoulders of giants.

ZAHN (on camera): What is the trademark of the Alicia Keys sound?

KEYS: I like people to be able to relate to it and identify with it and understand it, and feel like it's their own. ZAHN (voice-over): And plenty of people identified with "Songs in A Minor."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Grammy goes to Alicia Keys.

ZAHN: Five Grammys and recognition of long years of team work.

KEYS: Whoa! Whoa.

ZAHN: The success of "Songs in A Minor" opened up the world for the 20-year-old, but also in ways she never expected.

KEYS: I went to South Africa right after my first tour, and I really met a lot of kids who were raising themselves, and who were dealing with living with AIDS, who were raising their younger brothers and sisters, 4 and 5 and 6 years old, and they were only 15. I came home and just didn't feel like the same person anymore.

ZAHN: She became and remains a fund-raiser and advocate for AIDS sufferers in Africa, organizing benefits and doing TV spots.

KEYS: There is a way for you to help.

ZAHN: Despite the demands of touring and huge expectations for her follow-up album, Alicia Keys likes to keep a low profile.

KEYS: A perfect day for me would be able to come home, get a great rest at night in my bed, put on my little slippers and mess around the house.

ZAHN: And keep her private life private. Whatever the rumors.

The gossip columns have linked her with several stars, most recently Usher because of their hit duet.

KEYS: It was kind of funny, actually. They would tell that we would go places we'd never been, we had been doing things we never did.

ZAHN: The title of her second album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys," was not accidental.

KEYS: I have kept a book of words since I was 9 years old, all the way up until now. I still write, you know. It's been my voice, you know, it's been my way to really express what I feel, the way that I can tell my secrets.

ZAHN (on camera): Do you hear music all the time?

KEYS: Definitely. Sometimes I'm, like, we have to just be quiet. I have to be quiet for a minute. So I'll just shut everything off, and suddenly I do start hearing all types of rhythms and sounds and chords or songs.

ZAHN (voice-over): Like her debut, "The Diary of Alicia Keys" has won praise from fans and critics alike. MIMI VALDES, VIBE MAGAZINE: I think when she did the first album, she sort of stumbled onto her style, and was still trying to figure it out. With the second album, she nailed it.

ZAHN (on camera): And I know you think that there's another chapter ahead for you, where your songs will become more political.

KEYS: I just want those songs to be able to really talk about what's going on in the world, beyond our own little boxes of whatever.

ZAHN: So you want to be provocative.

KEYS: Yes, I love that word.

ZAHN (voice-over): Alicia Keys has already began work on her third album, and she is going to star in a movie to be produced by Halle Berry. It is the real-life story of a piano prodigy who had a battle against racism.

We're going to head back to school in just a moment, for a fight over Bible study.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It teaches strong character. It teaches morals. It even teaches good manners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. The battle over it all when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Every week millions of American kids attend Bible classes. Nothing unusual about that. But now some public schools in Virginia are the focus of a furious battle over sending students to Christian classes during regular school hours. And tonight, the local school board is expected to decide whether the program can continue.

Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a damp path behind McSwain Elementary School, the first graders are heading to a Baptist church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love him because he first loved us.

FOREMAN: For a half hour each week, first, second and third graders who sign up for weekday religious education, or WRE, are excused from class to learn about the Bible, morality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, some of the lessons that I learned from the Bible were stuff like Daniel and the lion's den, the birth of Jesus.

FOREMAN: Both of Andrea Oakes' girls went, along with 85 percent of their classmates, and she's astonished the program is under attack.

ANDREA OAKES, PARENT: I would like to think that, no, they're not attacking us because we are Christians, however, I cannot help but question whether or not that is the reason.

FOREMAN: In this strongly religious state, church groups pay for WRE, which about 12,000 students attend, and religious classes are not held on school property.

AMY DIDUCH, PARENT: Well, it really began at the beginning of this school year.

FOREMAN: But Amy Diduch is one of the minority of parents who want the school board to shut the program down anyway.

DIDUCH: I'm not opposed to a parent, on an individual basis, choosing to take a child out for religious instruction, but I am opposed to having the school day stop while those children are absent.

FOREMAN: Diduch and others say kids who do not take part are getting little or no instruction while others are in religion class and that sometimes children are ostracized for not going.

EDWARD SCOTT, STAUNTON CITY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: If the letters to the editors are to be believed at all, then surely students have been stigmatized.

FOREMAN: Back at the church, the Oakes girls say they never saw any evidence of that.

JACLYN OAKES, RELIGIOUS EDUCATION GRADUATE: I don't think any of the kids in my classroom that were left behind got teased at all.

FOREMAN: And religion class organizers say the courts have long approved of such programs, as long as they remain separate from schools and parents can choose.

JACK HINTON, PRESIDENT, RELIGIOUS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: The majority does not impose its will on any minority in this particular situation. It is a voluntary situation where you opt in or you opt out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So Tom, do you think the school board will end up making a decision tonight?

FOREMAN: I think they are going to make a decision, and I think the decision is almost certainly to be to keep this program. That's the motion they're considering right now.

What they're trying to do is answer the concerns of these parents by saying what they will do is require a programmatic strengthening of what happens to the kids who don't go to religion class. What they don't want is for those kids to be sitting in class, twiddling their thumbs, doing nothing, waiting for the other kids to come back.

They think that they can build up, maybe, language classes, maybe arts classes, things like that for those kids. That may answer the complaints of the parents who don't like this.

And I think it will to some degree, but having talked to some of these folks, some of the parents who are concerned about this, they still remain fundamentally concerned that, even though these religion classes are not on school property and they're not being paid for by the schools, it is on school time. And that makes them uneasy.

ZAHN: So if they won't be satisfied by a compromise that works out, what in the end do they really want, to stop this program altogether and have those kids take those Bible classes outside of the school day?

FOREMAN: Yes, what they'd really like is for these classes to be after school, which would be ideal for many people, I suppose. Not ideal for the churches, however.

The churches in Virginia currently spend about $600,000 a year providing this program during school hours. By doing that, they can take advantage of the fact that the kids are already there. The kids have been bused there and will be bused home afterwards.

Turn it into an after school program and suddenly, they say, it will cost an awful lot more than money, raise an awful lot more questions about when the kids get home, how they get home. And they say that financially, that may not be possible and could be the end of a program that they think for many generations now has been a very good thing here in Virginia.

ZAHN: Some interesting questions being asked on both sides, Tom Foreman. Thanks for bringing that story to us tonight. Appreciate it.

And "LARRY KING LIVE" is at the top of the hour. And guess what? We've got him early for you tonight.

Larry, what's up?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Happy Valentine's Day. I love the look.

ZAHN: Thank you. I wore this for you.

KING: Very...

ZAHN: To remind you it was Valentine's Day. No flowers, no letters. What's the deal, Lar?

KING: You know what? Anyway, I had a beautiful...

ZAHN: I should not have asked. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked.

KING: I had a beautiful heart -- No, I -- Scorpios don't often gulp. I had a beautiful heart tie, and I forgot to wear it. But you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to wear it tomorrow like I'm sort of a day late.

ZAHN: OK. That will do.

KING: A dollar short and a day late.

ZAHN: You can make amends for yourself. So who's on your show tonight?

KING: Perfect Valentine's gift, a man who loves the world, a simple man. Mr. Rogers left us, so we have Bill Maher. Bill Maher is the guest of the hour with your phone calls. Just a perfect way to say "Happy Valentine's Day."

This one's for you, Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you, Larry. I appreciate that. Look forward to some of the questions that will be asked of Bill. You always get a good audience when he's on.

KING: Bye.

ZAHN: See, that says it all right there. You don't even have to wear the tie tomorrow, Larry, thanks. Look forward to the top of your show.

Remember Pat Benetar's song, "Love is a Battlefield"? Well, for two married medics in Iraq, it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. MELINDA GATES, FLIGHT MEDIC, U.S. ARMY: It's not a normal life, but it's definitely a lot better than what some that other people have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Stay with us for a Valentine's Day honeymoon in the war zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: I hope you've had a chance to be with your loved ones on this Valentine's Day. You didn't forget the chocolate, or the flowers or the card. But not so for thousands in the military, separated by distance and duty.

Still, our Alex Quade found one military couple in Iraq whose hearts quite literally take flight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX QUADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Sergeant Gates and Sergeant Gates, two helicopter flight medics, married and, yes, together in a war zone.

(on camera) Who's the better medic?

M. GATES: We both are. We're both pretty good medics. I couldn't say one is better than the other one. That's a tough question.

QUADE (voice-over): Melinda and Rex met in the military, a few months later, eloped on leave.

(on camera) When did you get married?

SGT. REX GATES, FLIGHT MEDIC, U.S. ARMY: June -- no, I'm in trouble. July 21st.

M. GATES: This is our honeymoon for the meantime.

QUADE (voice-over): Some honeymoon. He works days, she nights.

R. GATES: We don't get time off together. That's the thing. She's a medic; I'm a medic. So we'll be on revolving crews. If I'm on duty, she's off and vice versa.

Having her out here, a did you believe edged sword. On one hand, you know, it's awesome. I get to see my wife and we're newlyweds, so it's all the happy time. But on the other hand, you know, if she's away from me, or even if we hear rockets come in, mortars.

QUADE: They live under threat of incoming or their unarmed medivacs being shot down.

R. GATES: We're both trained and qualified, but I mean, mortars are indiscriminate. They just kind of come out of nowhere and hit wherever they want to.

It's -- I guess we've got to cope with it a lot better, but initially it was scary. It's like, this is someone I love and I want to spend the rest of my life with. And we sit here and we have these plans. And at 2 a.m., that phone rings and she has to go on a flight, there's always there, that little thing like, "Oh, I hope she returns."

M. GATES: If he's in a crew that lets me know that we've been shot at or that there's burning vehicles or rockets or something, I really don't notice that. I'm more focused on the patients and getting them in the aircraft, getting them treated.

QUADE: Despite danger, they feel lucky. Military couples rarely are deployed together.

M. GATES: It's not a normal life. But it's definitely a lot better than some of the other people have. Unfortunately, there's a lot of married couples in Iraq right now, and they're not all in the same camps. They're not in the same locations. They're only able to speak to each other through e-mails.

So we're really fortunate just to be able to see each other. And every once in awhile we have lunch or we have dinner together. And that's really special to us.

R. GATES: Sometimes we'll be talking about work. Others time then we have to say, hey, we have to put work aside and just talk about life in general. And it's kind of neat when you sit there and plan, you know, a future together. But at the same time, you hear things go off in the background or somebody running out on a 2 a.m. mission. It's like, I love her, but there she goes.

QUADE: When their unit goes home, Rex and Melinda will once again live at separate bases. They'll see each other only on weekends. At least here, they see each other every day.

R. GATES: But it's still the honeymoon in a war zone, I guess.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: What an unusual way to have to spend a honeymoon. Alex Quade with that story, and we are kind of hoping that they have found a way to celebrate Valentine's Day together quietly.

Now that Michael Jackson's trial is underway, so are the jokes on late night TV. Stay with us. We'll share them with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we close out the show tonight with some laughs, courtesy of late night comics and the Michael Jackson trial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": The other big story, former child star Corey Feldman -- remember Corey Feldman? -- has been subpoenaed to testify in the Michael Jackson case. I think this is the first call back Corey has had since the movie "Gooney's."

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": For Valentine's Day, they have introduced a special line of candy. It's the Michael Jackson commemorative line of candy for Valentine's Day. It's lovely. It's delicious. It's white chocolate with a nut inside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And you have at least five months more of this. That's how long the trial could last.

Thanks for joining us tonight. Have a good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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