Fight over Tom Cotton’s ‘faith’ comment erupts in Arkansas Senate race

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) believes "faith is something that only happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings," triggering criticism and a call for an apology from Pryor's campaign.

Cotton's remark came as he was praising the Supreme Court's ruling that some employers don't have to cover certain contraceptives for employees as required under the federal health-care law.

"It's just another example of how Obamacare infringes on the liberties of all Arkansans," Cotton told KNWA. "Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings. That's when we worship. But faith is what we live every single day. And the government shouldn't infringe on the rights of religious liberty."

Pryor's spokesman called on Cotton to apologize. In a statement, Pryor argued that Cotton's remarks were unwarranted.

“I’m disappointed in Congressman Cotton’s deeply personal attack on me,” the senator said in the Wednesday statement. “He and I may disagree on issues, but for him to question my faith is out of bounds. From a young age I have never shied away from talking about the importance of God in my life, and it’s my Christian faith that gives me comfort and guidance to be a steady voice for Arkansas in the Senate.”

When asked for a reaction, Cotton's campaign passed along a statement from Cotton calling Pryor a "man of faith" but not backing down from his comments.

"Senator Pryor is a man of faith and practices it with commendable openness, which I respect, but I wish he would respect Arkansans' right to practice our faith," Cotton said. "Instead, Senator Pryor and President Obama still defend Obamacare even after the Supreme Court said it violated freedom of religion. Senator Pryor supports taxpayer-funded abortion and late-term abortion and would force Christians to pay for abortions despite their deeply held religious beliefs. That's a real attack on faith."

Cotton is challenging Pryor in a key contest in the battle for the Senate majority. Pryor has sought to emphasize his Christian faith in the campaign. In December, he ran an ad invoking the Bible.

"I'm not ashamed to say that I believe in God and I believe in his word," Pryor said in the commercial. "The Bible teaches us no one has all the answers. Only God does. And neither political party's always right."

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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