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Congresswoman: Elect Christians or "legislate sin"
The Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. — Rep. Katherine Harris, a Florida Republican who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat, said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that a failure to elect Christians to political office will allow lawmaking bodies to "legislate sin."
The remarks, published in the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, unleashed a torrent of criticism from political and religious officials.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said she was "disgusted" by the comments "and deeply disappointed in Rep. Harris personally."
Harris, Wasserman Schultz said, "clearly shows that she does not deserve to be a representative ... ."
State Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, demanded an apology, saying Harris' statements were "outrageous, even by her standards."
"What is going through this woman's mind?" Slosberg said. "We do not live in a theocracy."
The criticism was not limited to Democrats.
Ruby Brooks, a veteran Tampa Bay Republican activist, said Harris' remarks "were offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican."
Jillian Hasner, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said: "I don't think it's representative of the Republican Party at all. Our party is much bigger and better than Katherine Harris is trying to make it."
The fallout follows an interview published in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Witness editors interviewed candidates, asking them to describe their faith and positions on certain issues.
She then warned voters that if they do not send Christians to office, they risk creating a government that is doomed to fail.
"If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," she said, citing abortion and gay marriage as two examples of that sin.
"Whenever we legislate sin," she said, "and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don't know better, we are leading them astray and it's wrong."
Harris also said the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.
In reality, she said, "we have to have the faithful in government" because that is God's will.
Harris campaign spokesman Jennifer Marks would not answer questions about the Harris interview and, instead, released a two-sentence statement.
"Congresswoman Harris encourages Americans from all walks of life and faith to participate in our government. She continues to be an unwavering advocate of religious rights and freedoms."
The notion that non-Christians "don't know better" or are less suited to govern disturbed Rabbi Rick Sherwin, president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis.
"Anybody who claims to have a monopoly on God," he said, "doesn't understand the strength of America."
Harris is running against Orlando attorney Will McBride, retired Adm. LeRoy Collins and developer Peter Monroe in the GOP Senate primary.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company