August 27, 2006 in Nation/World

Harris backpedals following uproar

Jim Stratton Orlando Sentinel
 

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rep. Katherine Harris sought Saturday to smother a campaign brushfire stoked by an earlier claim that failure to elect Christians to public office would allow lawmakers to “legislate sin.”

Harris, appearing at a gun show in Orlando, said she did not mean to offend non-Christians in her comments to the Florida Baptist Witness last week. She explained that she referred exclusively – and repeatedly – to Christians because she was being interviewed by the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

“My comments were specifically directed toward a Christian group,” said Harris, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Longboat Key.

To reinforce that message, Harris’ campaign also released a statement Saturday.

It described her strong support of Israel and said when Harris called the separation of church and state a “lie” she was addressing “a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government.”

“My rallying cry,” she said, “has always been people of all faiths should be involved.”

Harris ignited a furor with her Witness interview. She sounded a fervent evangelical tone, saying that God “chooses our rulers,” that voters needed to send Christians to political office and that God did not intend for the United States to be a “nation of secular laws.”

Speaking to Witness editors, Harris said:

“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.”

“If we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women,” then “we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s (sic) certainly isn’t what God intended.”

On Friday, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Democrats and Republicans blasted the comments, saying Harris was suggesting non-Christians were less suited to govern or should be excluded altogether.


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