Harold Ford, Jr.

Harold Ford, Jr. is the Democrat running for the Senate seat currently held by Bill Frist, who will retire after the midterm elections. He’s running against Republican Bob Corker.

Ford’s latest campaign ad takes place inside of a church. Does this blur the line of separation of church and state? Or is it just Ford letting people know who he is?

According to one article,

Gesturing to the pews behind him, Ford in the ad says, “Here, I learned the difference between right and wrong. And now, Mr. Corker’s doing wrong. First, spending millions telling untruths about his Republican opponents, both good men, and now me.” He goes on to tell viewers about his record on national security.

“I love it,” Maury Davis, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Madison, said of Ford’s use of a church as a backdrop. “I like that he brought church back into the political arena.”

That last statement explains exactly why this is a bad move. I’m not sure what the church has to do with his message, other than to tell people he believes in the same god they do, therefore, they should vote for him.

It also bothers me since he’s claiming that going to church is the only reason he knows right from wrong. I mean, I didn’t go to church, but I could tell you from my own (and others’) experience that lying about other people is wrong. I have yet to meet someone who says that’s a good thing to do. Do we want another person in Congress who needs to be told by his church that lying is wrong? (What if he missed the sermons on stealing and murder!?)

Is it a violation of church/state separation? No. Not if the church allows other candidates to film campaign ads in similar circumstances, said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

But he, too, agreed that this was just a bad precedent.

American Atheists released a statement with a similar tone, saying,

“To our knowledge, this is the first time a partisan political ad has been produced using the backdrop of a church,” said Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists. “It’s part of a larger and disturbing trend where candidates are invoking religion in order to woo constituencies and win elections.”

Johnson added that by “playing the religion card,” candidates like Mr. Ford were marginalizing and excluding millions of Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and other nonbelievers.

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists said that Mr. Ford’s ad is more than a simple statement of personal beliefs.

“It’s pandering, and it raises serious questions about a candidate who does something like this would represent all of the people in his state if elected, or uphold the separation of church and state.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. According to a writer from Scripps Howard News Service, the Ford campaign heard about the American Atheists’ statement. Says writer Bartholomew Sullivan,

Ford’s campaign spokesman Carol Andrews made sure reporters covering the race got copies of the atheists’ statement.

Since the “atheists’ statement” wasn’t exactly positive, you wonder what the motivation was for doing this…

“Look! The atheists don’t want us in church! A vote for Harold Ford, Jr. is a vote against the atheists!”

I doubt Ford will clear up any of this confusion. He wouldn’t want to tread on the heels of his supporters.

[tags]Harold Ford, Jr., Bill Frist, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Barry Lynn, Bartholomew Sullivan, Scripps Howard News Service, American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, Dave Silverman, Bob Corker, Maury Davis, Carol Andrews, atheist, atheists, humanists, nonbelievers[/tags]

  • Gary Aknos

    Barry Lynn is a hypocrite. In June, Lynn spoke out against the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education because it received $150,000 to help cover transportation costs from the State of Maryland. In the same month, Lynn’s own denomination, the United Church of Christ, received $100,000 to help defray the costs of the convention center hosting their convention.

    Details at: http://www.ucctruths.com/Archive/2006JuneArchive.html#au

    Barry Lynn is simply being partisan and he’s using the separation of church and state as the means for his partisanship.

  • RFL

    Though Americans United expressed concern about the $150,000 support for
    the convention, the lawsuit they actually filed concerned additional government
    funding ($297,500) for the Baptist group’s “Bags of Love” religious
    outreach. There is a big difference between expressing concern and
    taking the time, effort, and expense to file a lawsuit.

    You can view the Americans United press release announcing the lawsuit:

    Americans United Lawsuit Challenges Baltimore City Funding Of Baptist
    Outreach Program

    Americans United’s suit contested the use of city funds specifically
    earmarked for the Baptist group to hand out food and Bibles to the poor.
    Government sponsorship of social services is not unconstitutional.
    Government funding for the promotion of religion is. As Rev. Lynn
    stated in the press release, “Feeding the hungry is a commendable
    governmental undertaking, but using public funds to hand out Bibles and
    religious tracts is not. This city appropriation clearly violates the
    separation of church and state.” Happily, the court agreed, and ordered
    that there be no evangelizing of any kind with government funds.