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Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church Holds First Service Since Shooting; Themes of Forgiveness in Sermon. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 21, 2015 - 11:00   ET


REV. NORVEL GOFF, AME ELDER: Let me also take this opportunity to thank the connectional church of African Methodism led on by the president of the bishops' council, Bishop McAllister and the senior bishop of the church, Bishop John Bryant and to the clergy and laity throughout the world.

[11:00:17] We thank you for your unwavering support and prayers. We also want to thank the ecumenical community for standing strong, not only here in the city of Charleston but around the world have sent their heartfelt sympathy and prayers our way. But then I want to thank the good people of the city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina.


We have shown the world how we, as a group of people, can come together and pray and work out things that needs to be worked out to make our community and our state a better place.



GOFF: Now I'm reminded that there are other challenges that faces us. It does not go unnoticed. It does not mean that we are not aware of the problems that many of us face, not only in America but right here in South Carolina and Charleston.

But, there is a time and place for everything.


GOFF: And now it's a time for us to focus on the nine families.


GOFF: Oh, I know I'm right!

Because at this time we need to be in solidarity and praying for families and our communities around this state and particularly in Charleston.

So, I want to say to the citizens of Charleston and visitors -- thank you for being whom God has called you to be. Thank you for your flowers out front. Thank you for the cards and the emails and all of the acts of kindness.

I want you to know that the offices and members of Mother Emanuel want to say thank you. Come on, you ought to know it's true.


GOFF: Oh, yes! I know I'm right. Yes, I know I'm right.


And I want to thank -- you ought to give credit where credit is due. And if you are going to raise hell, you ought to know why you are raising hell, because hell is a specific place, for specific people.

But when folks are working and doing what they need to do as leaders in our community, at this moment in time I want to say thank you to Governor Haley for being on her job.


Day in and day out, working with those of us who are here trying to comfort and not only to comfort but to make sure that the perpetrator who came in and committed that heinous act that was pursued and captured and brought back to South Carolina.


I want to thank Mayor Riley. Oh, yes. It's all right.

I want to thank Mayor Riley for the resources that he placed in and around us here at Mother Emanuel to make sure that we had all the resources we needed, and also starting a fund to help the families and to help Mother Emanuel. I just want to say thank you.


And then, finally, I want to say thank you to law enforcement.


I got no problem in doing that. I want to thank them. I want to thank them.


I want to thank --


Oh, yes.

[11:05:02] I want to thank law enforcement. I want to thank the chief of police of the city of Charleston.

(APPLAUSE) And our neighboring communities for working together to bring about a safer place, not just for some of us, but for all of us. I just want to say thank you to the FBI and SLED and all law enforcement, the chaplains.

As I get ready to go to my text, I want to thank them because of the respect they've shown our people. Not just black folk but everybody who resides --


Because respect gets respect. A lot of folk expected us to do something strange and to break out in a riot. Well, they just don't know us.


They just don't know us because we are a people of faith. And we believe that, when we put our forces and our heads together, working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus.


So, let's don't get it twisted. We're going to pursue justice.


GOFF: And we're going to be vigilant, and we are going to hold our elected officials and others accountable to do the right thing.


The blood of the Mother Emanuel Nine requires us to work until not only justice in this case but for those who are still living in the margin of life, those who are less fortunate than ourselves, that we stay on the battlefield until there is no more fight to be fought. And for that we say thank you. No, say now.


GOFF: Now for the text. Somebody said I thought we heard the text.


No, you just heard the pretext. Let me hasten all and draw your attention to Psalms 46. I won't be before you long, but if I see somebody trying to nod and sleep in this warm room, I promise you I will start with Genesis.


And I will read, and I will read very slowly. And you think they're passing out water now, you just wait until I get through.

Psalms 46, the first seven verses. You will find these words recorded in the King James version of the bible, Psalms 46.

God is our refuge and strength, our present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters there uproar and be troubled, the mountains shake with the swelling thereon.

There is a river that streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high. God is in the midst of her. She shall not be moved. God shall help her and that right her.

And that heathen raged and the kingdoms removed, he uttered up his voice and earth melt.

[11:10:01] The Lord of Hosts is with us. The god of Jacob is our refuge.

Let us pray. Our father and our God, thank you for blessing the spiritual food for which we are now about to eat, in the name of Jesus we pray, and the people of God shall say, amen.


GOFF: God is our refuge. Every now and then you and I must realize that we've had some difficulties. And some of us have been in one kind of trouble or another.

When we were young we would run to our parents when we got in trouble. And when we got a little older we began to confide in our friends, our spouses, and other co-workers.

When we got in trouble sometimes, we just couldn't tell nobody what had happened. Hmm. When we got in trouble.

Have you ever been in trouble? Stayed up all night, trying to figure out the solution, only to have a greater headache than you started out with? But when you and I realized that there are some things we just can't handle by ourselves -- I wish I had a witness.

There are some problems and issues that we are unable to provide answers to. But I want to suggest and recommend to you this morning, if you find a problem or a situation too hard for you, I want you to know that it's just right for God. I wish I had a witness here.

When evil is in the world, you and I may not be able to control evil- doers. But I want you to know today that I know a man who is able to handle all of our problems.


GOFF: Some of us are still trying to seek answers to what happened last week Wednesday.

Well, I've been there, done that, spent the night, and I have decided to turn it over -- if y'all ain't hear me -- I've decided to turn it over to Jesus.

Preacher, you're saying right now, you mean we ought to forget what has happened? No, don't forget. But to remember that the God who created us all is the God who will make a way out of nowhere.

Yes, there are answers that we are still waiting for, but the answer is still by leaving our hands in the hand of God.

I'm reminded by some news media persons, said, wonder why the nine families all spoke of forgiveness and didn't have malice in their heart. Well, on this Father's Day you ought to know the nine families' dad.


GOFF: If you knew the nine families' daddy, you would know how the children are behaving.

After all, our daddy said, we ought to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If you knew our daddy, you would know that he said, weeping endured by night, joy comes in the morning.


Yes. If you knew our daddy, you would know that some days are up and some days are down, almost level to the ground.

[11:15:01] But if you knew our daddy, you would say, when I look back over my life and see what the Lord has done for us, my soul, my soul cries out, hallelujah! Thank God for saving me!

God is our refuge and strength. And then the first point you ought to remember from this brief message is that we ought to put our hope and trust in God. Yes, yes, yes.

Stock markets may crash, friends may leave you. Mom and daddy may be called back home to God himself. But if you keep your hand in God's hand, turn somebody and say, he'll make a way somehow.

And the second point I want you to remember from this sermon that God is our refuge and strength is that praise for the great things for he has already done. God has a track record. Turn to somebody and say, God has a track record. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

I just want to share with you. I've got to praise. How many of you have a praise in his spirit?

And I don't go through a whole litany of things early in the morning. I've got five things I say, and sometime it gets to ten. And here is what I say. The reason I praise him. He woke me up this morning.


Can I get a witness?

AUDIENCE: Yes! GOFF: The second reason I say, all right, he woke me up this morning.

And the third reason I praise him, I say, he woke me up this morning. And the fourth reason I praise him, he woke me up this morning.

By the time I get to the fifth one, he woke me up this morning! And he started me on my way with running in my feet, happy in my head, gave me power to do his will. Say yay!

All right. Sit down. Y'all are worrying me now.

The third reason I want you to remember as I prepare to go to my seat, God is our refuge and strength. He comforts us with the knowledge that God, who has always protected us. That's why I was so pleased when the authorities made the phone call to us to say, you can go back in Mother Emanuel to worship.


Some folk might need some more time in order to walk in. But for those of us who are here this morning, I want you to know, because the doors of Mother Emanuel is open on this Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth.


That, that, that, no weapon, somebody says, no weapon, no weapon, no one against us shall prosper. No weapon formed against us.

Some wanted to divide the race, black and white and brown. But no weapon formed against us shall prosper.

All right. Sit down now. I'm about to close out. I want to thank you for listening to this message.


[11:20:00] GOFF: But I don't want you to leave here without a life application to the message.

When times of trouble comes into our lives, how do we respond? Do we respond by being afraid and resort to fear, or do we respond in faith?

Well, as for me, and my household -- somebody say for me -- for me and Sister Goff and our boys and their friends, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord because it's by faith that we are standing here and sitting here this morning. Faith of our fathers, faith of our mothers, faith of the church in which God has brought us into.

Yes, you showed up this morning. We are serving notice on every evil- doer, that just because you think you got the victory, I got an email that was turned into an email that turned into a message to you. Remind them that I am still God. And beside me, there is no other.

And we have some difficult days ahead. But the only way evil can triumph is for good folk to sit down and do nothing. But if we are people of faith, we will join hands and begin to work together to forge a new partnership, not them against us, but we are the children of God who will be marching on to victory.

The psalm said, when they were in trouble, they ran and found the place that was a refuge in him, talking about a refuge in God. Some of us, when we get in trouble, we run from God, but those of us who are people of faith, we run to God. That's why we can't have enough prayer vigil. We can't have enough worship and singing and praising, because all of that God inhabits our prayers.

God is our refuge. I'm going to close and go to my seat. God has been mighty good to us.

And some folk have called him many names. Some folk have called him Mary's baby. Some folk have called him the bright and morning star. Some have called him my bridge over troubled waters. Some have called him my alpha and my omega and my beginning and my end. Some have called him the lily of the valley. I wish I had a witness.

Some have called him, hmm, a leaning post. Some have called him a battle axe in a time of war. Some have called him a leaning post. My momma called him a sure foundation. My daddy called him -- somebody say hallelujah! My daddy called him a way-maker. A way-maker.

But I called him by his name, and his name is above all names, and his name is the bright and morning star, the living water, and I call him Jesus! I call him Jesus! How many are calling Jesus? If I get about 12 folk to stand up and say "Jesus," God is my refuge and my strength.

When I'm weak, he makes me strong. When I'm tired, he makes me strong. When I'm weary, he makes me strong. When evil-doers come upon my tracks, he makes me strong.

[11:25:02] But I'm so glad, as I sit down at this time, that I put it this way. I have seen the lightning flash. I have heard the thunder roar. I felt sins dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard -- somebody say I heard. I heard the master voice to say, fight on, fight on, because he promise -- somebody say he promised -- never!


GOFF: Let us stand on our feet all over the church.

God, God is our refuge and our strength. The invitational hymn is one of the great hymns of the church. If you want God to be your refuge and your strength, you must surrender all of your stuff and empty yourself before a living God.

And we can say all to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give.

We're going to sing this invitational hymn. If you have a desire to be a member of this household of faith called Mother Emanuel, the doors of the church stands ajar. It's open. And give your life to Christ. Don't just want you in a membership role. I want us to become disciples of Christ.

Let us sing a verse of this great hymn of the church. If there is one, will you come at this hour?

God is our refuge and strength. If you're without a church home, I want you to come now.


GOFF: As we prepare to go home our separate ways, I want you to grab the hand of your neighbor. And -- [11:30:06]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have been watching and soaking in the first service at Charleston's now reopened Mother Emanuel AME Church, remembering the victims of the Charleston massacre last week, as the Reverend Norvel Goff brings his sermon to a close.

Let's just talk about it all.

Joining me here in Charleston, CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. We also have Russell Moore with the Southern Baptist Convention, and of course CNN's political commentator Van Jones.

Boy, just a beautiful, beautiful service, Van.


And we have been talking all day about the difference between happiness and joy, and he actually -- he said that. He said joy will come in the morning. That's a very, very old, old song. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning.

And that's really, I think, the message that he was trying to bring forward, that love and joy will prevail, an Olympic level of forgiveness and grace by this community, world-class level, historic. You would have to go back to apartheid South Africa to find this level of grace and forgiveness from a community this hurt.

TAPPER: It's really beautiful.

And, Dr. Moore, it's been said that the most segregated hour of any week is 9:00 to 10:00 or whenever people go to church on Sunday, black churches, white churches. This is a historically black church, but of course the pews are not just African-American. There are whites in there, all races.

And on the street here, we see a tremendous outpouring of blacks and whites as well. It's really been quite beautiful.

RUSSELL MOORE, PRESIDENT, ETHICS AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: And that's what I hope to see more and more in our churches around the country, because there is no way that we're going to be able to bear each other's burdens, to have consciences that are shaped by one another if we don't worship together, if we don't come to the lord's table together, if we don't gather together.

I mean, think -- one of the things that struck me in the service this morning was Pastor Goff standing up and speaking about law enforcement, thanking law enforcement...

TAPPER: Yes, thanking the FBI.

MOORE: ... and having applause. And you think about the tensions that we have had over the last year between law enforcement and the African-American community, what a beautiful picture.

And I think, if we had more and more of us who are coming together, not just in our workplaces, but where we form our identities, in our churches, in our places of worship, I think that would go a long way.


And, Doug Brinkley, I don't have to tell you about J. Edgar Hoover and his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King. It was a remarkable thing to hear Reverend Goff praising the FBI from the pew -- from the dais there. This country has come a long way in so many ways.


I was moved by the program. It says, unashamedly traditional church. And that's the service that we just saw. And I also was very moved at the -- to see how the AME churches going forward -- in the program, they have this Wednesday 6:00 at this church Bible study class again open to anybody that wants to come in.

It really makes your heart move to feel the power of Jesus Christ today that's been the message here and what healing and forgiveness is. And the FBI and the police have done a great job investigating this case, and that they were willing to acknowledge that, this was an open-hearted ceremony, and it was really an honor to get to listen to it and be here.


Now, of course, we should note that there is a lot of work to be done, President Obama tweeting within the last day or so: "Expressions of sympathy aren't enough. It's time we do something about this."

Now, President Obama seems focused on further restrictions on access to guns, especially for people like this racist terrorist whose name I am not using, but there will be a day -- the mayor, Mayor Riley, when I interviewed him earlier said they have nine people to bury first. But there will be a day that people start debating legislative prescriptions or beyond.

Obviously, racism is not something that is going to be solved with legislation.

JONES: Well, that's true. And, frankly, the country is actually already united on some commonsense reforms, background checks, those sorts of things.

I'm not sure that those legislative reforms would necessarily have prevented what we just saw. And so, on the one hand, there is this need to tighten up some of these laws and to be smarter about how we proceed, but I think at the end of the day, we also have to acknowledge that all the laws in the world are not going to remove the stain of racism, won't necessarily deal with the mental health issues.

And so it's a complex problem. And I hope that we don't get so hung up on this reform or that reform. Let's just pass all the reforms we agree on. Frankly, Republicans -- the majority of Republicans want some reforms. But let's not take our eyes off the ball. What's happening out here today is equally important to get us to a better place.


TAPPER: And, Dr. Moore, you're not -- you don't think that further restrictions on access to guns is necessarily the answer here.

MOORE: Well, I agree with Van.

It would not have prevented what happened here right now. I think we can have that debate, and it's already a very fractious debate in American society. And we can continue that. But I think there are deeper issues here, and we need to get at them.

And when Douglas mentioned the fact that they're still having a Bible study Wednesday night, still inviting who so ever will come, I think that gets at a part of this. Jesus talked about a priest and a Levite who passed by a man who was beaten on the side of the road.

And Martin Luther King famously preached on that and said the reason they passed by wasn't just apathy. It was fear. They feared that they too would be attacked. We need this sort of moment of churches that will say, we are so confident in hope, that we are not going to fear. We need white Americans who will say we are not going to fear to be able to address these deep and systemic issues of racial injustice in our country.

And if perfect love casts out fear, as the Bible tells us, then we ought to be able to come together and to work to do that.

TAPPER: And, professor Brinkley, one of the things that -- this seems to have been a tipping point in terms of, I have seen more conservatives, including Dr. Moore, talk about the need in their view to take down the Confederate Flag at the state capitol.

Obviously, the Confederate Flag didn't cause this young man to do what he did. He was an evil racist and he owns it. But I have seen more conservatives say this. Ed Morrissey, a blogger with the Hot Air blog, said the Republican National Committee should push South Carolina's primary to the end of the process unless they take down the flag.

BRINKLEY: Well, that's right. Mitt Romney has weighed in and has said, get rid of the flag. It needs to come down.

I think that's something tangible that might come out of all this. Gun control is a tough issue. President Obama went to the mat on it. It's a divisive issue in the country. But the flag now, it belongs in a museum. I think you can still have a Civil War memorial there on the grounds, but it's that flag yesterday, a Confederate Flag waving in the wind and the sun when all the other flags were at half-mast.

And other states have tried to deal responsibly with that flag. I think South Carolina has to let it go, and hopefully the legislature will do that in the coming days.

TAPPER: Van Jones, the governor who put that up, Democratic Governor Fritz Hollings in 1961-1962, a lot of Republicans say, why are Republicans getting dinged with this, when Democrats -- a Democratic governor put the flag up? And certainly there is no shortage of examples of Democrats, Robert Byrd, senator, former member of the Ku Klux Klan. I think he was a grand kleagle of Ku Klux Klan.


TAPPER: I am not comparing it at all. But even Governor Clinton, who -- Bill Clinton, who, when he was a governor and when he was president, very few would doubt his commitment to racial justice, but even when he was governor, he took actions to honor the Confederacy.


Well, first of all, I think that both political parties have played footsie with this for too long. I want to say one thing, though, I think we don't want to rush past. I'm a Southerner, born in Tennessee. My family is from the South.

There is a sense as a Southerner that we are put down, that we are looked down upon, that this is a region of the country -- if you want to show somebody as stupid, have them talk with a Southern accent on television. And so there is a sense of regional pride here that needs to be honored and needs to be respected.

That flag, though, is the wrong symbol for regional pride. And so we have got to, at the one hand, honor the fact that there is a sense of agreement that we have as Southerners, but that flag -- when you have neo-Nazis who are not allowed to fly the swastikas who instead fly the Confederate Flag, that means we need to put it in a museum.

I don't think we should kick any party, because, as you said, even Bill Clinton played footsie with that flag. But it's time for the footsie to end. It's time to put that flag in a museum.

TAPPER: Well, I don't know that he did anything with the flag, but he did honor the Confederacy in some way.

Dr. Moore, it goes beyond the flag, of course. There is the -- Richard Nixon's Southern strategy, the way to peel away working-class whites by appealing to them on racial issues in many ways.

MOORE: And I think that has changed and certainly changed among my constituency of conservative evangelicals in the South.

And so I think sometimes presidential candidates and others, when they think of evangelicals, they think of some TV evangelist from the 1970s and they don't recognize that conservative evangelicals are deeply committed to racial reconciliation and racial justice.

TAPPER: They were marching with Martin Luther King.

MOORE: Well, yes, and right now committed to the fact that these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is my family over here across the street.

And so any using of race as a way to divide us as a wedge issue is not going to work with people who believe the Bible and who believe in Christ.

TAPPER: Dr. Moore, professor Brinkley, Van Jones, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Really great, great conversation and honor to have all three of you here.

We are going to have more on the debate over the Confederate Flag in just a minute. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper live in Charleston, South Carolina.

The massacre of nine people inside this church behind me here this week reopened many of the nation's oldest wounds. And now we see the confessed killer in photographs with the Confederate Flag. The plainly racist aims of the terrorist shooter have left many here and across the country wondering, frankly, why the flag is still flying on the grounds of the South Carolina capitol.

Protesters gathered at the statehouse this weekend demanding its removal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It symbolizes pain. It symbolizes hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is not one elected official who has got that flag at their business, in their yard, on a sticker, but they defend it.


TAPPER: At least one South Carolina legislator has promised to introduce a bill to take the flag down. A majority of South Carolinians, though, favor keeping the flag flying.

One of the individuals, although not a South Carolinian, but a supporter of the flag, is here with me. David French, who writes for "The National Review," is here to make the case. Also joining me is Bakari Sellers, a Democratic state senator here, who says the flag needs to come down now.

David, first of all, let me say, thank you for having the guts to be here. To be completely honest, we reached out to some Republican state legislators and they would not come here to defend the flag. Explain your position.

DAVID FRENCH, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, and let me be very clear.

Number one, let me just say the most important thing is, God bless the victims here today.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

FRENCH: Their Christian witness of forgiveness is resonating around the country and the world. And I don't want anything we say here to take away from that reality.

And I'm not defending the flag broadly. Let me be very clear. My position is, if you're flying it, or if the state is flying it as a symbol that African-American citizens are not equal to everyone else or should not be equal to everyone else, as it was flown during the segregation era, as a symbol of massive resistance, take it down. Stomp on it, for all I care.

If it's flown next to Civil War memorials, next to Civil War monuments as part of the process of teaching the public about our history, as messy as it is, that's part of history. And that's part of learning about why these men, the almost 20,000 South Carolina citizens who fought and died under that banner, why they fought, why that banner has resonance today.

It's part of the history of teaching the totality of it. And I really think that, by teaching history in its fullness, we can begin to understand our past, understand why we are the way we are, and start to chart a course as to where we should be going and do it better.


TAPPER: Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS (D), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think that's a relatively naive and simple reasoning in looking at the Confederate Flag, because here in South Carolina, the soil of our great state is stained red with the blood of so many African- Americans, whether or not it's February 8, 1968, where three students, Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton, were killed and 27 others were wounded in what is known as the Orangeburg Massacre, or whether or not we're talking about a month ago, where you had Walter Scott, or whether or not you're talking about Wednesday night, when you had nine people slain.

Now, I am under no illusion that the Confederate Flag walked in and actually pulled the trigger, but it did give this young man a banner under which to justify his actions. And that banner under which he justified his actions is callous and that banner breeds hate.

And for many of us, looking at that every day, my good friend Clementa Pinckney is going to be laying in state on Wednesday, 30 yards away from that banner, that banner where this young man went back just to find some refuge and solace in his hateful views.

And that's why we sit here today and that's why we yell and that's why we scream and that's why we want that thing to come down.

TAPPER: Bakari, let me ask you. An overwhelming majority of South Carolinians, especially white South Carolinians -- African-American South Carolinians completely disagree, but white South Carolinians, which are a majority in the state, support the flag where it is.

Why do you think they support the flag where it is? Do you think they are primarily motivated by racism or by heritage?

SELLERS: Well, I think that the premise of the question is a little bit off, because you can't generalize all white South Carolinians as such.

There are many younger generation people, who are in my age group, millennials, who want it to come down, whether or not they're businesspeople, whether or not they're elected officials. We just saw Doug Brannon come out and he said he's going to file the bill to remove the flag.

TAPPER: That's a Republican state legislator.

SELLERS: Republican state legislator.

So, for me and my journey and my task is to understand that, one, since we're at this religious strength, faith without works is dead. And so as we move forward, we have to have faith, but our work has to be to come together to remove this symbol of hate, and I believe that we will.

TAPPER: And, David, your argument -- and you wrote a very long op-ed for "National Review," that...

SELLERS: I read it, by the way.


TAPPER: It was very well-written. And you granted a lot of Bakari's points about why people could be offended by it, why many people should be offended by it, but you still at the end of the day think that it represents to you, and I guess you think to a majority of people who support it, heritage, not hate?

FRENCH: Well, I have grown up in the South, and I understand all of the many dimensions that are brought to the view of that flag.

And I completely -- I agree with everything that Bakari just said about its meaning and its import to a huge number of our very dear citizens who are suffering today. And, again, I hate that this debate is taking place against the backdrop of that suffering.

But it is viewed in many different ways by many different people, and there is a view of it -- and this is one that I tried to articulate in the piece -- that said one of the ways that the South went forward after the Civil War and one of the ways that it went forward in a way where hundreds of thousands of Southerners then went on to fight and die for the Union that they were just fighting against a generation or two before is that they memorialized the war through the valor and not trying to memorialize it through the injustice.

Now, that's not to say they did so perfectly. They did many very bad things that history has -- should be very clear in condemning them for. But one thing they chose to do was not to continue on guerrilla war and to continue to resist, which would have ripped this nation to shreds.


FRENCH: They chose to remember, instead of resist. And that's something that is part of our history as well.

TAPPER: David, when you saw the photograph of the terrorist racist who I'm not going to name. When you saw the photograph of him with the Confederate Flag, did you think to yourself, oh, boy, this flag is going to come down?

FRENCH: When I saw that, it was disgusting to me. Look, I'm under no illusions. I had grown up in the South. I spent most of my life in the South.

I know there are evil, racist people who use that symbol. And every time I see it like that, it's disgusting. It's horrible. And I saw that. It makes me sick. I don't have particular affection for that flag. I don't have any affection for that flag.

What I want to do is to be able to teach history. At Fort Sumter, on federal land, a Confederate Flag usually flies. And that's part of, this is what Fort Sumter was. At Confederate memorials, these things fly, because this is what -- the banner they fought under. Why was that banner there? What did it mean to them? What does it mean today?

That's all part of teaching history.

TAPPER: Bakari, I will give you the last word here.


We're having a hard time moving forward. And I keep hearing David talk about moving forward, but we're having a very difficult time moving forward.

The fact that my father, who is 70 years old, when I'm 30 years old, and the many members of SNCC and SCLC and all those people and all those heroes and sheroes who shouldered us then, upon -- we're having shared experiences.


David, I'm tired of burying people that I love. And that's very difficult. And that flag is really representing things that are really hard to live by.

TAPPER: All right. I thank you both for the civil discourse on a very, very emotional issue.

David, Bakari, thank you very much. And thanks for being here on such an emotional day.

Coming up next, we're going to remember and honor the nine victims of last week's violence.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're live in Charleston, South Carolina, where the service at the reopened Mother Emanuel AME Church here just wrapped up, the first service after the horrific shooting, terrorist attack that took place here, taking the place of nine innocent people earlier this week. They were all African-American. They were in a Bible study. They were killed apparently by a white racist.


CNN's Victor Blackwell is here with us. He has been talking to people, trying to get an understanding of the surprisingly celebratory tone during the service today.

Victor, what did you make of the themes of forgiveness we heard today? What have you been hearing from people who attended the services, people who listened outside?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, what we heard initially from the elders of the church is that this would be in many ways a normal service.

And I was raised in a Methodist church. What you heard today, what people heard today, they were quintessential Methodist themes that you heard at the AME Church, starting with that initial praise and worship selections, blessed assurance, the certainty that even in this difficult time, God is still there and there is healing. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine, that even after this life, where the people who were killed are going is a better place, even though in this difficult time, it's hard to reconcile what happened with that loss.

TAPPER: And you also spoke with some of the family members of victims today. What did they have to say?

BLACKWELL: I spoke with Malcolm Graham. His sister Cynthia Hurd was killed in this church on Wednesday. He was preparing to go in today.

And I asked what is he feeling, and he said joy. And Van already talked about the difference between happiness and joy. He says that he is not yet at the place of forgiveness, but he knows that he has to go home, as he called it, home to Mother Emanuel, where he and his sister shared so many bright memories.

And he pointed out that today would have been his sister's 55th birthday, and she would have wanted him to be here at Mother Emanuel.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much.

Before we go, I want to show you again the cover of the "Post and Courier" newspaper, Sunday edition, which has nine roses and the names of the nine victims. These are the names that we're going to mention and we're going to tell you a little bit more about them right now.


TAPPER (voice-over): Tywanza Sanders was the youngest victim. His life selflessly came to an end trying to negotiate with the murderer to save the members of the Bible study he attended with his family.

SYLVIA JOHNSON, RELATIVE OF VICTIM: He shot the young man. His mother was there. And she witnessed. She pretended as though she was dead, that she was shot and dead. But she watched her son fall and laid there.

TAPPER: Sanders was unable to save himself or his great aunt, Susie Jackson, the family matriarch, who lovingly sang in the church choir for decades. She died alongside Ethel Lance, a retired city worker who devoted most of her 34 years of service to the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium in Charleston. She also served as custodian to the church.

With them at Emanuel AME Church was Myra Thompson, the wife of one of the church's bishops. She was teaching Bible study at the time.

Sharonda Singleton was a speech therapist, track coach and reverend at the AME Church. Her son, Chris, uses her lessons to try to persevere.

CHRIS SINGLETON, SON OF VICTIM: Love is always stronger than hate. So, we just love the way my mom would and the hate won't be anywhere close to what love is.

TAPPER: Remembered as an enthusiast leader, Reverend Depayne Middleton served as an admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University.

Cynthia Hurd, who worked in the public library for years, had a long history in the place she loved.

MALCOLM GRAHAM, BROTHER OF CYNTHIA HURD: She knew that church backwards and forward. She was in the youth choir. She said her Easter speeches in that church. Our mother went to that church.

TAPPER: Dedicating his life to the church, Reverend Daniel Simmons served as a pastor here. He died in surgery following the shooting.

Also with him that day was Reverend Clementa Pinckney, whose call to serve began at the age of 13. A pastor by the age of 18, he was remembered in the state Senate this week for his life of service, which extended from the church to both houses of the South Carolina legislature, elected as the youngest black member of the statehouse at age 23.

President Obama, who knew Pinckney, spoke movingly of the victims and the church's history.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mother Emanuel Church and its congregation have risen before from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times, to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.


TAPPER: And we are starting to get some details about how the victims will be laid to rest.

The casket holding Clementa Pinckney, the state senator who was also the pastor at this church, will be at the statehouse in Columbia this Wednesday afternoon for a public viewing.


Thanks for watching this special STATE OF THE UNION and the first service at Charleston Mother Emanuel AME Church, remembering the victims of the Charleston massacre.

It is going to be a tough Father's Day for many of these families, for all of these families.

I wish you a happy Father's Day. Hug those children of yours.

Our coverage continues right now with CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Thanks for watching.