Unbridled Spirit

October 28, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks, the Kentucky U.S. Senate race has become quite vicious with religious attacks being leveled. It started when Democratic hopeful Jack Conway launched an ad insinuating that his Republican hopeful, Rand Paul, was not really a Christan. That ad centered on charges leveled months earlier by a reporter about Paul's involvement in a satirical secret society while at Baylor University a few decades ago. Then during an ugly debate between the two, Conway refused to answer a question about if he thought Paul was a good Christian. Paul responded with an ad testifying about his personal faith in Christ, as well as a radio ad and a robocall featuring former Republican presidential hopeful and Southern Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee in which Huckabee attacked Conway for attacking Paul's faith. Although Paul and Huckabee rightly take Conway to task for his religious attack, Paul's response actually gave credence to Conway's line of attack. Paul's response was not that a candidate should not question another candidate's faith, but that in this case it was wrong because Paul was a good Christian. In essence, he was not condemning religious tests for office, but merely declaring that he passed the test. The spots by Huckabee did a better job of just being against the attacks.

Unfortunately, it seems that attacking a candidate's personal faith is a common political tactic in the era of confessional politics in which we live. Yet, in the Kentucky race, voters have apparently rejected such attacks as the polls suggest Conway's ad has actually backfired. Although Conway had caught up to Paul, he has now quickly fallen back behind and is running out of time to win the race. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, explained:

I think Conway made a really big mistake by injecting religion into the campaign. ... It was the turning point.
McConnell calls it a "big mistake" because it did not work. But, hopefully politicians of both parties will be against such attacks regardless of the impact on the polls. One should not attack a politician's faith in a desperate attempt to score cheap political points. And hopefully voters in other states will join those in the "unbridled spirit" state in rejecting such unbridled attacks on a politician's spirituality.

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