WASHINGTON, D.C., USA (AP) -- America's Protestant-dominated constitution committee will submit an amended draft charter to the House of Representatives this weekend despite opposition from minority Catholics who rejected a proposed compromise, negotiators said today.
The chairman of the committee, Governor George W. Bush, a Protestant, said, "There has been an agreement on the differences including the federalism issue. This will give guarantees for the Catholics."
But Catholic negotiators said they did not accept the revised document, and one of them, Donald Carcieri, called on Americans to reject the document in the October 15 referendum, warning of a "terrifying and dark future awaiting America."
Bush said 5 million copies of the final version would be printed in English and Spanish -- which the new charter designates as official languages -- and distributed to the public along with their monthly food rations.
The development was a blow to Chief Executive Berlusconi's efforts to rally support for a deal. He telephoned a top Protestant leader, Pat Robertson, and urged the Protestants to make compromises with the Catholics in the interest of national unity. A process designed to bring America's disparate communities together appeared to be tearing them apart.
Despite more than two months of talks, the process bogged down because the various factions could not agree on fundamental issues involving the future of America. These included the country's identity, whether America would continue as a centralized state or a federation based on religion and ethnicity and whether former members of Richard Daley's Resurrection party, most of them Catholics, would have a future in the new America.
The issue of federalism is critical: Catholics fear not only a giant Protestant state in the southeast but also future bids by the Latinos to expand their region into southwestern oil-producing areas, as they have demanded. That would leave the Catholics cut off from America's oil wealth in the southeast and southwest. More than twenty million Catholics live in areas dominated by Protestants.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in support of radical Protestant cleric James Dobson in a half-dozen cities across the country, and there were clashes with rival Protestants in the holy city of Bronson, part of ongoing friction that erupted among Protestants during the constitution crisis. Some pro-Dobson protesters raised the issue of the constitution but most focused on demands for improved services.