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Oklahoma Public Schools Now Required to Include Lessons from Bible; Democrats Scramble, Republicans Celebrate After Debate; COVID Cases Rising as New Variants Fuel Seasonal Surge. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We have Rachel Laser, the president of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State with us here. OK, the reasoning that we're getting -- and thank you for being with us Rachel -- is Oklahoma State Superintendent saying the Bible was a quote necessary historical document to teach kids and to understand Western civilization and the basis for our legal system.

What is your reaction to that?

RACHEL LASER, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: My reaction is that Superintendent Ryan Walters is on a Christian nationalist crusade to impose his personal religious views on all the school children and families of Oklahoma. He should know better. He was a history teacher.

Our Constitution is not based on the Bible. It didn't come up at the Constitutional Convention hardly at all. The Ten Commandments didn't come up even once.

And what it's based on is a promise of religious freedom. Thomas Jefferson wrote about that. It was about protecting, and I'm paraphrasing, the Christian, the Jew, the Hindu, the Muslim, and the quote infidel of every faith.

Think of how radical that was for the late 1700s. But that's what our Constitution is about. Church-state separation and religious freedom for all.

KEILAR: This issue has been taken up before by the Supreme Court and it was pretty clear. What do you see happening here? Is this just folks trying to get another bite of the apple because the makeup of the court is different and they think that they might rule differently in your view?

LASER: So that in the case that you're referencing is about the Ten Commandments display in public schools, Stone versus Graham, and that's of course what we're seeing in Louisiana with the first law requiring that all public school classrooms post the Ten Commandments and you know impeding on and intruding on the religious freedom of our school children in Louisiana.

Here we're talking about teaching from the Bible, and you know that's what Ryan Walters called for when he spoke about his memo that he just released to all the superintendents of his state. And you know it's a huge problem.

Church-state separation protects everyone's religious freedom in this country. It is what protects everyone's right to live as themselves and believe as they choose. And what we're seeing is a backlash against recent progress in our country towards equality for all, right?

The advent of marriage equality, the first Black president, the first Black and female vice president, the religious pluralism and diversity of today. It's a backlash.

KEILAR: Do you have any concerns that this Supreme Court with its current makeup may see things differently?

LASER: Well that's the other thing that's going on. I mean there is an effort to bring all cases challenging long-standing precedent to this Supreme Court because they have demonstrated that they are allies to the Christian nationalist movement. And in fact one of the justices, Alito, even has flown the symbolic Christian nationalist appeal to heaven flag in front of his vacation home.

So that's clearly a lot of the design here. But no, I mean in this case it's so clear that school children's religious freedom is protected at the highest level because they're captive.

KEILAR: What would be OK in your view? Because the 1960s -- a 1960s Supreme Court decision said very clearly, you know, mandatory Bible reading in public schools, no. But you are in a school allowed to do what is objectively teaching about religion.

So if there was part of the curriculum being teaching about different religions, using the texts of those religions, and that was mandatory, what would be OK in your view?

LASER: Right, so you can teach about sort of different religions, you can teach about the history of religions, but that's not what's going on here. Even though the lawyers for Ryan Walters tried to fudge it in the memo and put in that kind of language, even in that memo he talks about teaching the core values of our country, right. And what he wants to do is to teach the Bible as truth.

He wants school teachers to preach and not teach and that is unconstitutional. Ryan Walters in a short time serving as Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oklahoma has shown his true colors. He has supported the nation's first religious public charter school that actually on Tuesday Oklahoma State Supreme Court said couldn't go forward.

He has supported a bill to impose the Ten Commandments in every classroom and they didn't pass it there, but you know they just passed it in Louisiana. He has prayed over students in an elementary public school. He is looking to impose his personal religious views on the variety of different religions and non-religions that families have in Oklahoma. It's unconstitutional. It's an affront to religious freedom and frankly it's an affront to our democracy.

KEILAR: We will continue to follow this. It is not the last that we'll be hearing of this issue of course as we're following the number of cases having to do with this. Rachel Laser, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

LASER: Thanks for having me.


KEILAR: Democrats are scrambling to shift the narrative after President Biden's debate performance, but did former President Donald Trump do anything to win over voters who didn't support him in 2020 and still don't now?


KEILAR: All right, we are keeping our eye there on Virginia as former President Trump is set to speak any moment now in Chesapeake. It's his first campaign rally since the CNN debate last night, and we're told that his campaign is flying high.


ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Joining us now, former Arkansas governor and former Republican presidential candidate, Asa Hutchinson, also former Trump White House communications director, Mike Dubke, who's a founding partner of the Black Rock Group.

Good to have everybody here with us. You know, we look at where we sit today. There was a lot of concern coming out of that debate last night, bleeding into the morning.

Donald Trump did beat very low expectations. He didn't change a lot, though. There wasn't a lot new from Donald Trump. So was there enough to move the dial for the few people, right, that Donald Trump needs to bring over?

MIKE DUBKE, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: That's an interesting way to look at it, because I think in the lead up to the debate, a lot of what people were focused on is, how's Donald Trump going to handle -- how's President Trump going to handle the microphones being turned off? How is he going to handle not having an audience? How is he going to handle the way that he usually has dominated previous debates?

And all of these rules were set up by the Biden campaign, and they all seem to come crashing down on President Biden last night. And while you might say that President Trump didn't exceed expectations, I would say that he did in the sense that he kept it together for those 90 minutes and performed in a rather, you know, in a rather -- statesman- like is too far, but in a calm manner that beat the expectations that many were setting for him before the debate started.

KEILAR: He was, I mean, I will say his campaign agreed to those rules, so those were the ones he agreed to.

DUBKE: Absolutely.

HILL: Both agreed.

KEILAR: That's right they both agreed.

DUBKE: But within two hours.

KEILAR: They both agreed.

DUBKE: They agreed within two hours.

KEILAR: They both agreed. I do want to ask you, Governor, because CNN did this analysis of what these two candidates said, and there were 30 lies by Trump. There were nine lies or misleading statements by President Biden. That's not great either. Let's just be clear about it. But this -- it's this choice now that came out of this debate where you have Donald Trump, serial liar, which we, you know, he's still refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election or look forward to the next one and say he'll accept the outcome.

And then you have Joe Biden, who I think it's hard for at least, you know, in this one poll we have here, five percent saying that it changed their minds in our poll. It's hard for them to imagine him serving capably for four more years. What kind of choice is that for voters?

ASA HUTCHINSON, (R) FORMER 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's not a choice anybody wants. I was receiving phone calls and texts from Nikki Haley supporters and my supporters, and they saw the debate last night and they just was throwing up their hands that Trump is not acceptable. He's not any warmer to them than ever before.

But clearly, Biden is not up to the task. And so they just see this as a binary choice and that Joe Biden didn't give him an option. And so you either don't participate.

And so I think that Donald Trump will get some bump in the polls. It remains to be seen how much. Clearly, he won. He exceeded expectations. I agree with Michael.

And I look at what a test I think he had to live up to was handling the abortion question. I think he handled it well with some compassion and focused on the states and in contrast with the Democrat position. So I think he performed well and probably beat expectations, even though he still didn't move the truth-o-meter and he's still a convicted felon. And that's really one place that Joe Biden excelled the debate whenever they talked about the impact on democracy and support for the system of law.

Trump got some momentum though last night.

KEILAR: I do just want to say he said the Democrats want to kill babies after they're born. How is that compassionate? HUTCHINSON: Well, of course, it's a response of Trump compassionate. First of all, that's coming from Ralph Northam, former governor of Virginia. And so there is some substance to it. Now, the problem is he attributed that to all Democrats. So that's unfair.

KEILAR: Well, we'll put that aside because, you know, I don't want to have a full on debate about abortion with you, but he really misrepresented that. And I think it was very clearly not compassionate the way he addressed it.

HILL: You know, moving forward, I found it interesting, perhaps not surprising, right, as you're trying to do a little cleanup. But interesting that the reporting fairly early on this morning from advisers to President Biden were he's all in for debate in September. Do you anticipate Donald Trump will want to revisit this come September?


DUBKE: I'm not sure that he would. You know, we've got President Trump skipped the debates during the primaries because that was to his advantage. Leaving this debate in the kind of minds of the American people would be to his advantage.

The one thing that's missing, though, is and we've said this before about a June debate. I know what the Biden campaign was trying to do with the June debate reset, and they really did reset the campaign. I think by the time we get to September, that question is going to be a little different. I suspect that they -- we will have another debate, mainly because the Biden campaign will absolutely want to have one.

And I think the Trump campaign at that point, unless they are 20 points up in the polls, will see the advantage to going again.

KEILAR: You think there'll be another debate, Governor?

HUTCHINSON: I think Joe Biden wants another debate. And I think he will not perform any better in a September debate than he did last night. And he's not facing reality on that point.

I suspect that Donald Trump will agree to -- he's already agreed to it. And I think there will be a debate from his standpoint. He is confident. He knows that Biden can't perform up to the strength that the American public expect. And to Michael's point, there's a lot that'll be happening between now and then. It's going to be a question of how does Joe Biden do at the Democratic Convention in his acceptance speech?

How does Trump's VP selection go over? And does that create any controversies that have to be dealt with? So September's a new ballgame. I would put my money on a debate happening.

HILL: Governor Hutchison, Mike Dubke, good to have you both with us. Thank you.

Well, summer wave of COVID-19 officially arriving in the U.S. We'll take a look at what's driving the surge and which regions are experiencing it.



KEILAR: A new wave of COVID hitting the U.S. just in time for summer. Cases are rising in as many as 38 states, fueled in part by, yes, a new variant.

HILL: CNN medical correspondent Meg Tirrell joining us with the very latest. This is not the news that people want, Meg, but it is the news we need. So, Meg, what are you learning about this potential new strain?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we are seeing COVID levels rising right now. This is not unusual for the summertime. We often see a little bit of a bump in the summer and then a much larger wave, typically in the late fall and winter.

In the summer, it's caused by people going indoors, experts think, perhaps being closer together. And we are seeing that a little bit earlier this year as we have seen such hot temperatures. The CDC tracks this through a couple metrics, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths.

And across all of those metrics, those are up between 15 and 25 percent in the most recent week's worth of data. But it's really important to put this into context. And we can do that by looking at wastewater levels of the COVID virus.

Nationally, those are still considered to be low from the CDC. If you look there, you can see a small uptick in the most recent month's worth of data. So we are seeing the levels rising, but it's off a very low base and much lower than we have seen even over the past year or two.

So it's low nationally. It's rising the fastest in the West and the South, according to the CDC. And if you look at the where COVID is expected to be rising or known to be rising, those are the red states and the yellow states.

That's really across the entire country right now. So the CDC's advisers met yesterday, and they recommended that everybody over six months get an updated COVID shot this fall. We are going to have updated vaccines targeting newer strains of the virus.

They also recommended everybody get an updated flu shot this fall. We are expecting both of those to be available. CDC points out that 76,000 people died of COVID in 2023. 45,000 people died in the most recent flu season. And they say these updated vaccines can be protective -- Guys.

HILL: All right. Appreciate it, Meg. Thank you.

TIRRELL: Thanks.

HILL: We'll be right back.


HILL: Sharks have been around for ages. Longer than the dinosaurs. Remember, it's their water. We're just swimming in it. Today though, one-third of all shark species are actually facing extinction.

KEILAR: One barbaric practice killing many involves severing their fins and putting them back in the wild. A group of determined scientists, however, is trying to catch those responsible with a cutting-edge DNA test. Here's more on today's Impact Your World.


DIEGO CARDENOSA, MARINE BIOLOGIST, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Sharks are going through a global conservation crisis. The demand for their products, the demand for their fins or meat, is their ultimate threat. Shark feeding is the practice of cutting the fins off, which are used for the shark fin soup, and then putting the carcass back in the water.

If the shark is alive, it will suffocate to death because without its fins, it cannot swim. One of the biggest challenges for law enforcement around the world is that how can they tell whether a shark fin that is coming into their country is legal or illegal? It's from a species that is regulated or not regulated.

You need to do DNA tools or molecular tools in order to identify it. What we have developed is that we take a little piece of this fin, we run it through a machine for two hours, and we're able to tell what species is it without sequencing very cheaply, very quickly.

Before we deployed the tool back in 2018, Hong Kong authorities were seizing around five tons of shark fins annually. Now those numbers have increased to 100 tons a year. The idea is that in the long run, those efforts being translated in shark fishing nations to do more sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

If we don't do something quick to reverse these declines, then we're going to see several sharks going extinct in our lifetimes.


KEILAR: And let's go now to Chesapeake, Virginia, where former President Trump is speaking.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): Him defend his atrocious record. It's not defensible. I don't care who you were. You could be the late, great Clarence Darrow. Has anyone ever heard of Clarence Darrow? He was known as quite a good debater.

Not as good as your governor, but that's OK.