RIVAL IS CHURCH OFFICIAL
Sen. Dole Makes Issue Of 'Godless' Group
North Carolina's U.S. Senate race erupted this week after Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) launched an ad accusing her Democratic challenger of supporting the agenda of a political committee devoted to atheists.
State Sen. Kay Hagan (D), who polls show is narrowly leading Dole, filed suit in a North Carolina court Thursday accusing the incumbent of defaming her in the advertisement, which ends with an image of Hagan on the screen and a female voice saying, "There is no God."
"Elizabeth Dole has made her choices here, and that's her decision. It's equally our decision not to allow someone to slander Kay Hagan, impugn her character, her convictions and her faith, without any consequences," Colleen Flanagan, Hagan's spokeswoman, said Thursday.
Dole's campaign has stood by the ad, giving it prominent placement on its Web site while calling attention to any interview Hagan gives on the subject. "She tries to claim she knew nothing about the group until confronted with evidence that she did," Hogan Gidley, Dole's spokesman, said in a statement.
The controversy surrounds a Hagan fundraiser held in Boston, which was hosted by Woody Kaplan, a member of the advisory board of the Godless Americans PAC. The PAC, which did not contribute to Hagan, is dedicated toward "mobilizing nonbelievers for political activism," according to its Web site. Its agenda focuses on a separation of church and state, and some liberal Democrats, such as Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.), have invited the group's leaders to their campaign events.
"Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?" Dole's advertisement asks.
Hagan, an official at First Presbyterian Church at Greensboro, has also responded with an ad called "Belief," looking into the camera and accusing Dole of "bearing false witness against fellow Christians."
"She even faked my voice in her TV ad to make you think I don't believe in God. Well, I believe in God. I taught Sunday school. My faith guides my life," Hagan says.
-- Paul Kane