Charles Dharapak/AP

Lawmaker urges both parties to end hyped up war rhetoric

Cleaver says the alleged 'wars' on religion and women are damaging exaggerations.

Is the Republican "war on women," as Democrats call it, equivalent to what the GOP calls the Obama administration's "war on religion?"

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, says yes -- and he won't defend either.

"We have got to quit exaggerating our political differences," Cleaver said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. "If you believe that the president is a Christian, why would you still come to the belief that he's trying to destroy religion in this country? I think we've got to stop that."

Cleaver said yes when conservative activist Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, asked him if the Democrats' "war on women" claim is a similar exaggeration. "That is wrong. And I've never said it, not one time," Cleaver said.

Some Republicans say Obama policies, such as his challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act and a now revised requirement that religious-affiliated institutions cover birth control in employee health plans, infringe on religious liberty and constitute a "war on religion." Some Democrats argue that Republicans are waging a "war on women" by opposing contraception coverage and federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

Cleaver called for condeming such rhetoric when it happens. "It is damaging the body politic and it's further separating the people in this country," he said.

Reed responded that "what I've said is that the administration has shown an insensitivity, if not outright hostility" toward religion. He didn't mention the word "war."