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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Security High at NYC Marathon; Shooting at LAX

Aired November 3, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He targeted specifically TSA officers. His intent was very, very clear in his note.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): His target was clear, and now so is the path the LAX shooting suspect took to carry out his mission, and what he did to make sure his victim was dead.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Another bad day for President Obama's health care act, but this time it has nothing to do with the Web site. What a court ruled that could derail a key provision of Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In that case, I will leave and in a few minutes, Oprah will be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mrs. Obama.

BLACKWELL: And "Saturday Night Live" takes on critics only as "SNL" can. How they spooked the lack of black actresses in their own cast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Hey, don't let the clock confuse you this morning.

BLACKWELL: Right.

PAUL: It's 8:00 and we're so glad to have you here. Our camera is clearly confused this morning.

BLACKWELL: That extra hour of sleep did not help the camera, I guess.

PAUL: I'm Christi Paul. We're glad to have you company.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

PAUL: And we're less than 30 minutes away from the start of the New York City marathon.

BLACKWELL: Yes. PAUL: Good luck to all those runners out there, 47,000 of them expected to participate in this year's race where security is tighter than ever.

CNN's Alexandra Field Live in Staten Island. That's, of course, where the race begins.

So, what it's like right there now?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, we are near the starting point. We're in the Runner's Village. It's where 47,000 runners are getting ready for this race. Take a look at them. You can see the way they are dressed it is a cold and windy morning in New York but not cutting down on excitement.

Remember, this race was cancelled last year because of Superstorm Sandy and a lot of athletes had tried to complete the Boston marathon but that race was cut short. The result is strong. This race is personal and here is how one of the runners put it when he spoke to us this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MCCABE, MARATHON RUNNER: I wanted to come to New York. First, I want to honor the victims of the Boston marathon and survivors. And secondly, last year I came here to run the race and Superstorm Sandy cancelled the race. So, I want to come back here and finish the business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FIELD: Bill McCabe and those 47,000 other runners are being subject to strict security measures this morning. It isn't cutting down on their enjoyment of the race, but they are being told that they can't carry backpacks. They can't carry water packs. They can't wear face masks for the first time this year, and they can't wear any kinds of bulky costumes. It's just the reality of this race this year -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Alexander Field there for us in Staten Island, the starting line of the New York City marathon. Thank you so much for that.

Well, turning to another big story, new details this morning on how the attack at Los Angeles International Airport went down. Terminal 3 we know how reopened after Friday's deadly shooting rampage.

CNN's Kyung Las the latest for us this morning -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, prosecutors charged the gunman with two felonies: murder of a federal officer and violence at an international airport. The details of what exactly unfolded still being unraveled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAH (voice-over): Investigators are still piecing together their timeline of what happened inside of terminal 3. They don't know every step of Paul Ciancia's path to the terminal.

(on camera): Here is what they do know. A roommate dropped him off here at the airport. He entered at about 9:20 in the morning, one of these entrances at terminal 3. And a picture like this one, as well as surveillance video, the gun was a .223 assault rifle which Ciancia concealed in a bag.

He then approached TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez who is standing there with those flowers. This is a prescreening area and he shot him pointblank multiple times in the chest. He then got on this escalator.

ANDRE BIROTTE JR., U.S. ATTORNEY: The defendant is then alleged to have begun walking away from the wounded TSA officer, going up an escalator and then coming back down at escalator to return and shoot the wounded officer again.

LAH: At the top of the escalators is the security check point. At some point, he wounded two additional TSA officers and one passenger.

This is the other side of the security check point. From here, the gunman made his way deep into terminal 3. Cell phone video captured the chaos as he neared the passenger gates.

ALEX NEUMANN, WITNESS: People were running and people getting knocked down, and there was luggage everywhere. And mayhem was the best way to explain it.

LAH (voice-over): We are speeding up the video, so you can see his path as he wound to the terminal, making his way to the gate area.

(on camera): Cianci had five loaded magazine, a host of unspent ammo, enough, said the mayor of Los Angeles, to kill everybody in this terminal. It ended right around here with Los Angeles airport police shot the gunman. A handwritten note was found on him.

DAVID BOWDICH, FBI AGENT IN CHARGE: We found a statement where he made a conscious decision to kill multiple TSA employees. He addressed them at one point in the letter and stated that he wanted to, quote, "instill fear into their traitorous minds."

LAH: As the FBI works out the details of this murderous path, the TSA is also asking how in the post-9/11 era, did a gunman make it this close to an airline passenger plane?

JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: This gives us great concern, and we will look at what our policies are, and it's all done in cooperation with each airport police agency and how we go about providing for the best possible security.

LAH (voice-over): Because on this day in America's third busiest airport it failed to prevent one man with a gun from doing this. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Federal agents are also asking for the public's help, asking them to e-mail in any pictures or video of what happened inside this terminal at the FBI -- Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

PAUL: Let's talk about the suspect Paul Ciancia. We knew that he grew up in Pennsville, New Jersey and only recently moved to L.A. He is 23. Ciancia He attended an all-boys Catholic high school in Wilmington, Delaware between 2009 and 2008.

And "The L.A. Times" reporting this morning he obtained a motorcycle mechanic certificate from a school in Florida. His father owns a repair shop and he was unemployed. And as far as we know, Ciancia was unemployed. "The Times" also said Ciancia's mother died back in 2009 after battling multiple sclerosis.

BLACKWELL: Well, now, the victim. Ciancia is charged with the death of Gerardo Hernandez, who was 39 years old. He's the first TSA officer to die in the line of duty. Hernandez joined in 2010 and he leaves behind a grieving wife and two children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANA HERNANDEZ, FALLEN TASA OFFICER'S WIDOW: He was a wonderful husband, father, brother, son and friend. He would have been 40 next year. I'm fully devastated. We are all heart broken and we'll miss him dearly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: And two other TSA officers were shot in Friday's rampage, as well. They survived.

PAUL: Now, airports in and around New York are stepping up security following the deadly shooting at LAX. New York's port authority, in fact, tells CNN it's increased police patrols at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports and local check points, as well. A spokesperson says this should not affect flight operations, just so you know. But he does say passengers -- be sure to check with your airline for any delays just to be on the safe side.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we saw some photographs of people passing through TSA at LAX, hugging the TSA officers trying to comfort them. Moments of healing. We also saw beautiful moments at the Red Sox victory parade this weekend.

PAUL: Yes, it is something. You got to see the moving scene. I mean, people were just brought to tears at the finish line of the Boston marathon.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

Plus, he's known for helping boost the careers for stars like Harrison Ford, but now best-selling author Scott Turow is out with the latest novel.

PAUL: And he's going to tell us about it right here on NEW DAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: This was truly an amazing moment at the Boston Red Sox victory parade. It was Saturday when you see there that Gomes placed a Jersey there on top of the trophy at the finish line, the finish line there at the marathon. 617 is the area code for Boston, that's why that is there and you seat words "Boston Strong".

So, after this, this happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(GOD BLESS AMERICA)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: It is just so touching. We had to play it in its entirety again in case you missed any of it. Just incredible moment there.

BLACKWELL: Still get the stills.

PAUL: Doesn't it?

BLACKWELL: Still get the chills.

PAUL: You know who else is chilly right now? All the runners.

BLACKWELL: Yes, indeed.

PAUL: Checking your mark, what, 15 minutes away now from the start of the New York City marathon. So if you're heading out to check the race out, bundle up.

Alexander Steele in the CNN weather center.

How cold is going to get for these folks?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You can see the policeman with the head band.

PAUL: I know.

STEELE: You know, it is cold out there this morning, good for runner weather, I think. But here is a look. Temperatures in the 30s but wind chills are what it feels like out there. Much cooler in the Northeast and runners are going to feel that throughout the day and certainly out there watching your friends or loved ones run, quite chilly.

So, wind chill is feeling like 41 in New York, but that's just kind of like -- you kind of get the essence of it, 20s, and 30s. And that's what it will feel like. So, certainly, bundle up as you're heading out.

You can see, 47 will be the temperature. That's it. Temperatures won't move more and it's really the key here. These winds sustained about 15 and 20 miles an hour and gusts higher than that.

So, much cooler than the weather we had. A cold front came from Canada and dropped temperatures really precipitously. Here in New York, 49 today, that's it. You know, you should be almost 60 this time of year.

Tomorrow kind of bottoms out temperature-wise and then we'll start to rebound. You can see on Tuesday, back into the 50s. But that's the trend in the Northeast. Temperatures certainly cool.

Also here in the Southeast, ample sunshine and temperatures well cooler than average, guys.

BLACKWELL: We'll get ready for it. Alexander Steele, thank you so much.

STEELE: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: "Saturday Night Live" poked pun at itself last night. It tackled head on the difficult topic, the criticism it's gotten lately over the show's lack of diversity.

PAUL: Yes, I mean, you remember, "SNL" veteran Keenan Thompson made these headlines after he swore off playing anymore female characters, particularly African American female characters, in protest of the lack of black women on the "SNL" cast.

Thompson the show hadn't had a black woman in the cast since Maya Rudolph left. That was back in 2007.

BLACKWELL: It's surprising it's been that long, actually.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: So, "SNL" opted to directly respond to the controversy last night on the show. This is Kerry Washington, obviously, an African American actress and she was the guest host.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am so sorry to interrupt, but Oprah Winfrey has arrived for the dinner and she would love to pop in and say hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a nice surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't it? Don't you think you should go and get changed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that Oprah can come in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, because of the whole --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Keenan won't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, in that case, I will leave and in a few minutes Oprah will be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mrs. Obama.

ANNOUNCER: The producers at "Saturday Night Live" would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent, and also because "SNL" does not have currently black women in the cast.

As for the latter reason, we agree that this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near feature, unless, of course, we fall in love with another guy first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: His reaction is priceless, too, sitting there just waiting.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

But they did acknowledge the problem and will try to rectify it they say, and they did that well.

PAUL: So clever.

BLACKWELL: And the man who set the president set the bar for the modern legal thriller is back.

PAUL: Author Scott Turow is joining us next to talk about new twists in his latest book.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be so good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Caroline Polimas (ph) was murdered last night. Some creep got into her place somehow and strangled her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like she was raped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take this case personally. You're the only one around here I can trust.

Catch me a bad guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were in Caroline's apartment the night she was killed. We have the fingerprint result. There is a call from yours to her that night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absurd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, play cool. You killed her. You're the guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you think that I can do a thing like that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Oh, teaser from the 1990 legal thriller "Presumed Innocent" starring Harrison Ford. The film is based on the best- selling novel by lawyer and author, Scott Turow, set a precedent for the modern legal thriller.

And you're chuckling when you watch that. It's probably almost surreal to you.

SCOTT TUROW, AUTHOR: Well, I'm chuckling because I'm going to be with Brian Dennehy in L.A. on Tuesday night. We're doing a conversation in front of a public audience.

PAUL: Oh, that's great.

TUROW: Yes.

PAUL: About "Identical," your new one?

TUROW: We're going to be talking about identical and I'm sure many other things, as always happens with Brian.

PAUL: Well, I know, it's interesting because you're inspired by Greek Mythology as I understand.

TUROW: In this book, yes.

PAUL: Greek families, Greek names. That kind of thing.

TUROW: Right.

PAUL: How did you come up with this idea?

TUROW: I really was interested in writing about identical twins and that led me to an old Greek myth Castor and Pollux, and there was an element -- one is mortal, one is immortal and could be spun in an interesting way in a novel.

PAUL: Well, your work inspired so many people in the culture and even Harrison Ford, I want to show you something he had to say about you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: Scott Turow's book I thought was fantastic, went to meet him in Chicago and talked about the book and character. I had come off just a -- one of the "Star Wars "movies and really gave me an opportunity to do something different, kind of real grown up movie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: I mean, "Presumed Innocent" had such a twist we didn't see coming. I will not give it away, but it's something similar in this one, too?

TUROW: Right, yes. There's a big reveal at the end as the people in Hollywood like to put it.

PAUL: Do you know when you're writing what the end is, or is that something that evolves as you write the book?

TUROW: This particular twist is derived from the myth of Castor and Pollux. So, I knew what was coming. But if you ask me who committed the murder, usually, when I start writing, I have no idea and I certainly didn't know who committed the murder in this novel.

PAUL: Really? So it's a mystery to you as you're writing and how it's going to unfold?

TUROW: It is. It is. And I think that probably helps with the laying of clues and red herrings because I'm fooling myself at the same time.

PAUL: How long does it take you to write --

TUROW: Usually three years between novels. I can't be as efficient as some of the other people who write in this genre that get them out every six months.

PAUL: And you're still a practicing lawyer, right?

TUROW: I am. Yes, I'm a partner big law firm, worldwide law firm called --

PAUL: Yes, that would have something to do with time needed. I know power and money are big themes in "Identical".

TUROW: Yes.

PAUL: What is it about those two themes that what attracts you, as well?

TUROW: Well, there is a political race at the center of "Identical." So, you can't write about politics without money these days and the influence of money and how far a motivated billionaire can go to sort of alter a political campaign. Those are themes there -- but it's not a political soapbox. It's a novel.

PAUL: Well, I just want to say congratulations. Number two as of this morning, is that right?

TUROW: Yes.

PAUL: Where?

TUROW: Combined e-book and hard book cover bestseller list in "The New York Times."

PAUL: Impressive. I can't wait to read the whole thing.

TUROW: Thanks. I appreciate it, Christi.

PAUL: Author Scott Turow, we appreciate it.

"Identical" is the name of the book and don't miss of Harrison Ford's interview, by the way, with CNN about his new movie, "Enders Game". That's tomorrow on NEW DAY at 8:00 Eastern. Thanks again.

TUROW: Thanks, Christi. Appreciate it.

PAUL: So glad to have you here.

TUROW: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure.

Victor?

BLACKWELL: Hey, I've got something I want you to look at. Look at this, Christi, Scott as well. This is a shot of --

PAUL: Oh, there it is.

BLACKWELL: -- this partial solar eclipse. This is live happening right now.

If you're just waking up along the East Coast, maybe you notice something unusual in the sky. I think you can see it from the U.S. around 6:00, 6:30. This is a live from Abu Dhabi. And in places, in Africa, and near the coast there, you can see most of this. It's going to look like kind of a half moon. This lasted about two minutes or so.

Solar eclipse, at least from the U.S. -- solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and sun. Our Alexander Steele told us the last time something like this. This phenomenon was 1854 and may not happen again for 200 years. So, this a rare treat.

New York's so-called "Subway Vigilante" in trouble with the law. Bernhard Goetz is busted in an undercover sting but find out if he's staying behind bars.

Plus, birth control coverage under Obamacare takes a hit. We'll hash out a major court decision.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: No, you're not off your rocker this morning. It is 8:30. If you don't know that, change your clocks right now just because we don't want you to be late for everything today and the rest of the week.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: Glad to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: And 5:30 out in the West Coast, if you're up early or still plugging along from last night. I'm Victor Blackwell.

Here are five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Up first, the suspect in Friday's deadly shooting at lax remains unresponsive at a Los Angeles Hospital after being shot by airport poll. Paul Ciancia is accused of fatally shooting a TSA officer and injuring several other people. He is charged with murdering a federal officer and violence at an international airport. If he's convicted, he could get the death penalty.

PAUL: Number two: the New York man who is dubbed the Subway Vigilante is out of jail. He was arrested in a drug bust. Bernhard gets his due back in court next month, or charges related of selling marijuana to an under cover police officer and gets know notoriety in 1984 when he shot four African American teens on a New York subway train. He was acquitted of murder and assault charges.

Number three, the head coach of the Denver Broncos is going to have heart surgery this week. According to a statement from the team, John Fox will undergo an aortic heart valve replacement and then take a leave of absence from coaching obviously for at least several weeks. Fox sought medical help after feeling light-headed. A team spokesman says he did not have a heart attack.

BLACKWELL: Number four, Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is committed to working with Egypt's interim government. He called Egypt a vital partner and in a possible reference to ousted President Mohamed Morsy, upcoming his trial. Kerry urged free and transparent trials of all Egyptians. Cairo is Kerry's first stop on a 10-day tour of the Middle East, North Africa and eastern Europe.

Number five, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday for more Obamacare testimony. Last time she was in front of a House committee, this time she'll be in front of the Senate finance committee.

In Memphis on Friday, look at this, a Tennessee state Senator gave Sebelius a copy of the book, you see it in her hand, "Web Sites for Dummies". Well, the HealthCare.gov Web site has been off to a notoriously shaky start and not it says it's online application is not available overnight. PAUL: Meanwhile, a federal court takes a significant bite out of Obamacare. A three-judge panel struck down a key provision on mandatory contraceptive coverage.

Live in Washington now, CNN's Barbara Starr. So Barbara, what happened? Walk us through this. Good morning, by the way.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning to you guys, too down in Atlanta. Well a provision of the Affordable Care Act requires some businesses with 50 or more employees to provide insurance for birth control or pay a substantial fine. Now this federal appeals court decision has struck that down. What the court did is it ruled the company that brought the suite Fresh Weed Foods of Ohio could not be forced to provide birth control. Part of the court decision saying quote, "They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith, pay a penalty of over $14 million and cripple the companies they spent a lifetime building or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong."

What are they talking about? Well the key issue here is the owners of the company are of the Catholic faith and objective on religious grounds. The suit was filed in the name of the company, a company could not have religious beliefs but the court said that the suit could go forward in this 2-1 decision, so all of this now may be another tick mark on the wall, if you will of striking down part of the Affordable Care Act.

PAUL: I know this isn't the only one. I mean, I know dozens of lawsuits are working their way kind of through the courts across the country right now. How do you foresee this one sorting itself out?

STARR: Well right that's exactly the point. By some counts there are some 75 federal lawsuits on this matter around the country, three appeals pending at the Supreme Court and no word on when the high court might rule.

So this is another indicator of some of the legal thinking about all of this but with so many suits it looks very likely like it will be up to the Supreme Court potentially to take on this issue -- Christi, Victor.

PAUL: All righty good to see you Barbara Starr and thank you for taking the time with us today on the Obama decision from the DC Court of Appeals. We appreciate it, Barbara.

BLACKWELL: Here is a question to consider, should town leaders be able to recite a prayer before public meeting? Well the Supreme Court hears arguments on the case this week and the debate is certainly heating up. We're going to continue this debate. You're watching NEW DAY SUNDAY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Good morning. I hope Sunday has been good to you so far. Let's get ready for the week ahead together, shall we. Talking about Tuesday as we look ahead -- yes Election Day in New York City beginning basically at the beginning of the end of Michael Bloomberg's decade long tenure as Mayor. Democrat Bill de Blasio has a commanding lead over his Republican candidate Joe Lhota so we'll keep you informed of that.

Wednesday lots going on. First of all Twitter who is going public this month announces its stock prices. Shares expected to go for about $17 to $20 a pop.

Also on Wednesday, we've got SCOTUS taking on public prayer. They could decide whether prayer is allowed in government meetings. This is the Supreme Court, of course. More on that controversy in just a minute we'll talk more.

But finally on Wednesday, yes it's going to happen again, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is getting grilled on Capitol Hill over the Obama Web site fiasco. This time she's facing the Senate Finance Committee.

And then on Thursday, set your DVR won't you CNN debuts "Pandora's Promise". This is a documentary on the history and future of nuclear power around the world. Again that's right here on CNN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: Today for "Faces of Faith," we're debating the Supreme Court case that Christi just mentioned. At issues are prayers like this one recorded at a town hall meeting in Greece, New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FATHER ALEX BRADSHAW, OUR MOTHER OF SORROWS CHURCH: Jesus Christ, who took away the sins of the world, destroyed our death; through his dying and in his rising, he has restored our life. Blessed are you who has raised up the lord Jesus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now two women took the issue to court saying the town unfairly preferred Christian prayers and the prayers are unconstitutionally promoting specific beliefs. Now a U.S. Appeals Court sided unanimously with them.

Now joining us Evangelical Pastor Robert Jeffers from Dallas who support the town of Greece and Amanda Knief spokeswoman for American Atheist who supports the plaintiffs.

Now I want to start with you Pastor Jeffers. Good morning to both of you. You say, Pastor, if the court sides with the women, it could have a huge impact on religious freedoms. Now their claim, their hope is that that type of prayer would not come during a meeting. How would this affect religious freedoms so broadly?

ROBERT JEFFERS, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: Well, Victor, first of all, I think it's interesting that even the Obama administration is siding -- siding with the side of Greece, New York along with half the states and 85 congressmen. The real issue is what role should government play in regulating the content of prayers and the answer is absolutely none according to the Constitution. The Constitution simply says in the First Amendment that Congress cannot establish a state religion. It has absolutely nothing to say in the First Amendment about the prayers of the city council meeting.

Back in 1983 the Supreme Court already sanctioned what are called legislative prayers the First Amendment is about protecting religious liberty not restricting religious liberty and trying to muzzle the content of prayers.

BLACKWELL: Yes but then in 1984 Sandra Day O'Connor suggested this endorsement test in Lynch versus Donnelly that says "If there's anything that is perceived by a reasonable person to endorse or dismiss religion that it's invalid, it's aimed unconstitutional." That prayer that started with Jesus Christ, that would be something at a public meeting that I assume some would say endorse religion.

JEFFERS: Well, I actually pray that way in our city council meetings when I'm asked to pray. But remember, the founding fathers, Victor, said Congress cannot establish a religion. Sandra Day O'Connor who came up with this phony endorsement test we've got to go back to what the founding fathers said. They talked about establishing a state religion.

Look the First Amendment is about -- not about guaranteeing people from having hurt feelings it's about guaranteeing religious liberty. Words mean something. The Constitution says establish, not endorse and I believe the Supreme Court will clarify that in this decision.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring Amanda in. Amanda the Pastor brings up a point, the Obama administration sided with the town of Greece pointing to that 1983 case he discusses -- discussed rather that said that "A prayer is protected." You say that's wrong.

AMANDA KNIEF, SPOKESWOMAN, AMERICAN ATHEIST: I do. I think that no one is trying to regulate the content so much. We shouldn't even be having prayer at all for government meetings.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFERS: No, that's not right.

KNIEF: So it should be a moot point. Sir, you had your chance, please let me have mine.

The point is that if you're going to need religion to do your job, do it before the government meeting starts, then nobody is infringing on anyone. If you feel a need to have prayer to do your job, do it before the meeting. And if you're going to do this government prayer whether it's a city council or if you're going to do in the House of Representatives or the Senate, then you need to open it up to everyone and one of the points the Third Circuit made was that a town is not just religious institutions, its individuals. And you can't discriminate you have to do this for everyone without prejudice. And that means letting everybody in so whether its Pastafarians (ph) or atheist or Jews or Muslims or wiccans, everyone then gets to give their version of prayer or invocation and we're not seeing that.

And when Christians are challenged whether it's Hindus in the U.S. Senate who want to offer prayer or for example, this year in Arizona when Representative Juan Mendez gave a secular invocation, we see Christians challenging that getting upset saying that it needs to be God only that gets recognition in front of legislation.

BLACKWELL: Well Amanda the --

JEFFERS: Victor --

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

JEFFERS: Victor, it's important to point out that in Greece, New York everyone was allowed to pray --

KNIEF: No, they weren't -- there was no public -- there was no public affirmation of it. They went through the phone book --

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFERS: Yes there was. Absolutely there was.

KNIEF: No there wasn't. They never publicly said everyone is welcome they only said that after --

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFERS: I am very comfortable with everyone having an opportunity to pray, whether it's people of the Jewish faith or Hindu faith. What I'm against is government trying to control the regulation and the content of that prayer. The First Amendment we need to return to simply says we cannot establish a state church, nobody is suggesting that we ought to be establishing a state church. This is about protecting religious freedom, not about restricting --

(CROSSTALK)

KNIEF: Religious freedom belongs to the individual and not to government-endorsed prayer. And what we need to do is not have government prayers at all. Government endorsing also means if a reasonable person would have sat in on Greece for more than ten years it was only Christian prayer.

So there is no way that reasonable person wouldn't think that the plaques that they gave those people who came and the clergy that gave the prayers in Greece, of course they would have thought it was Christians and the only listings --

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFERS: Well, the reason for that --

BLACKWELL: Pastor Jeffers?

JEFFERS: 90 percent -- BLACKWELL: Last word.

JEFFERS: 90 percents of the residents of Greece are Christian did and by the way according to what I --

KNIEF: But what about the 10 percent. It is not a town of Christian institutions -- you're a town of residents.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFERS: But it was open for anyone and what --

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Pastor Jeffers and Amanda Knief -- last word.

JEFFERS: The founding fathers -- the founding fathers were --

KNIEF: Yes, they were unconstitutional --

JEFFERS: Because they prayed when they drafted the Bill of rights.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: I see this conversation could go on and on and on and it's difficult to hear both conversations going at the same time but I thank you for having this spirited debate.

KNIEF: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Robert Jeffers -- pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas; Amanda Knief, spokeswoman for American atheists. Of course, we'll see you as we continue with the argument throughout this week.

Now for more stories on faith, be sure to check out our the belief blog at cnn.com/belief.

Christi?

PAUL: Yes, that was going to go on and on. It's an interesting conversation.

Meanwhile, you know what we're watching, Victor -- 47,000 competitors, that's how many people are going to make their way through the streets of New York City for today's marathon. Coming up we're going to take you live to Staten Island where the wheelchair racers have just crossed the start line.

Good luck, guys.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: All right. Time for our political gut check with Candy Crowley. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius is going to be on the hot seat before Congress on Wednesday. CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" host, of course, Candy Crowley joining us from Washington. So what are we going to see from her this time around, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Well, it's interesting because initially I would have said to you well, the Senate is dominated by Democrats therefore the chairman of the committee Max Baucus is a Democrats -- perhaps it will be a slightly friendlier group than what she saw in the House. Here's the problem with that -- Max Baucus has sort of been a real critic even though he helped put together Obamacare. First of all, the rollout and more recently gave a radio interview and sort of likened the rollout of Obamacare to Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall. So that's not totally a friendly environment.

And I suspect until they get this fixed it's just a rough go for Kathleen Sebelius because they will go after the number of people that have been told that their insurance no longer exists and they will again go after like who messed this up to the tune of $300 million or however much it cost to get the system up and not running.

PAUL: Up and not running, yes. Well, who is going on "STATE OF THE UNION" with you today to talk about it?

CROWLEY: Well, we are going to talk to Kelly Ayotte on the Senate side from New Hampshire about that and some other that have come up in the Senate including new requests for witnesses to the Benghazi attack more than a year ago.

Also, we're going to talk to Mike McCall because we want to get -- he's the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee to get the latest update on what we know about the shooter yesterday at Los Angeles International Airport.

PAUL: All right. Candy Crowley -- thank you. We'll be looking forward to it.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

PAUL: Stay here for "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy. It starts at the top of the hour 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Ok. Remember this video from back in February? Watch this.

Yes, that was a meteor blast over Russia. It released a blast equal to 300,000 tons of TNT. About a thousand people were injured including 200 children. In September an even larger asteroid zipped frighteningly close to us here.

It's believed that some day a massive space rock somewhere out there will, in fact, hit the U.S. and wreak havoc everywhere.

Now earlier I sat down with the one and only astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson to talk about the looming threat out there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST: Asteroids are out there and there's surely one with our name on it -- earth's name on it. And small ones will explode and be dangerous and can take out regions and cities maybe even a transportation grid.

The big ones are rarer, the ones that sort of render major fractions of our population extinct. Those are rarer like the one that took the dinosaurs. You get one of those every 100 million years or so.

Other things that could take out life on earth are major climate change. If you're a life form that is adapted to a certain configuration or combination of temperature and atmospheric conditions, then if that changes faster than you can respond, that can be devastating that basically your ecosystem changes and that could be devastating to your survival.

Most life that has gone extinct on earth has gone extinct for reasons related to the change in their environment. So, we might be the own -- we might be our own source of extinction, if this continues.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about a bit of controversy because you took some heat for taking to Twitter to critique the science behind the hit film "Gravity" with George Clooney --

TYSON: Don't get me started -- you've got to go there.

BLACKWELL: Let's go here.

TYSON: You've got to go there. All right.

BLACKWELL: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, why do you think film lovers got so emotional about your tweets?

TYSON: First of all the film "Gravity" got 100 other things right. I just didn't tweet about those. I just thought people would find it interesting that I have some expertise in gravity being an astrophysicist -- that's that we do.

And so I offered some reflections on things that they got wrong, one of which doesn't take an astrophysicist to notice. Sandra Bullock, a medical doctor is there fixing the Hubble telescope. We're not sending a medical doctor anywhere near the Hubble telescope unless you also have engineering degrees.

We don't send mechanical engineers for open heart surgery in the hospital. "Excuse me, Doctor -- I've got this." No. so that was just odd for me.

And then her hair should have really been standing on end and it wasn't. It was sort of flat down to her head. Maybe too much moose or it was a wig, I don't know.

But I gave eight -- it couldn't have been more than eight tweets -- I don't remember the number. And they ended up on the today show, on "Saturday Night Live" and the tweets basically went viral.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Yes, you can read more of those tweets. Find his handle there. That was Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson. He's hosting a town hall event in New York City tomorrow where he'll go into more detail on the science behind asteroids.

Christi, a really interesting conversation.

PAUL: I wonder what he would say about solar eclipse because we have more on that coming up in just a moment. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: All right. A partial solar eclipse visible along the East Coast and parts of Africa -- I want to show you this video from Abu Dhabi. It is something, isn't it?

BLACKWELL: It's so pretty. It's a beautiful color. And the sky is huge.

Alexandra Steele in the CNN Weather Center -- Alexandra, explain how this works.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, it's gorgeous. All right. That was live from Abu Dhabi. It's early evening their time. So it happened about 25 minutes ago so it's about 5:30 p.m. for them -- sunset.

Here's what's happening with the solar eclipse. Now the sun -- you can see the moon passes between the earth and the sun so the moon kind of eclipses the sun. And that's what we're seeing. And actually, this was pretty rare, this eclipse. It was actually called the hybrid eclipse and only five percent of all are this. Meaning some of us see a total and some of us see a partial eclipse so it's just absolutely cool -- guys.

PAUL: All right.

BLACKWELL: Alexandra Steele, thank you very much.

PAUL: And thank you so much for watching us today.

BLACKWELL: "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now.