The national leadership of both the Democrat and Republican parties have designated the race for the U.S. House of Representatives 9th Congressional District seatas one of major importance for their respective parties. The Republican candidate for the seat, Mark Harris, is the former Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Charlotte, and two-term president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Harris, a vocal supporter of the Freedom-Caucus within the Republican Party, holds to traditional, Christian values. The Democrat candidate, Dan McCready, a Marine Corps veteran and small business owner, has garnered millions of dollars in campaign contributions due in large part, reportedly, to a PAC associated with Nancy Pelosi. McCready states that, he, too, is a Christian; however, McCready has made Harris’sChristian convictions the centerpiece of his campaign strategy. While the outcome of the contest may determine which party has control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the mid-term elections, I contend that the implications the race holds for the freedom of religious expression in our country loom even larger. In what amounts to attacks on Harris’s religious beliefs, McCready has used excerpts from a sermon Harris preached in May of 2013 to try and depict the Republican candidate as a person who has a low view of women. Ads that quote Harris—or play sound-bites from a single sermon of Harris’s—saying that the Bible gives men the title,“head,” and womenthe title,“helper,” and that the Scripturecalls a man to be a “servant leader,” and a woman to be a “servant lover,” run constantly on television and radio.
Of course, the McCready ads do not tell voters that Harris also said that husbands are called to “love their wives as Christ loved the church,” or that Harris said that he endorses a woman’s right to pursue her career and sit“at an executive board table,” or that Harris said that he believes that a woman “can be anything and do anything [she] want[s] to do.”[i] Unsurprisingly, the major news media outlets have done their level best to bolster the McCready campaign’s efforts to portray Harris as “out of step” with the country because of his views on women and the family. For instance, the Charlotte News & Observer’seditorial board asserted that Harris’s sermon, in effect, “demonized” women.[ii]
McCready has argued that Harris does not believe that “men and women are equally valuable and equally capable and should be treated as such in their homes, careers, and in society.”[iii] However, besides the fact that McCready has misrepresented what Harris actually said, the Democrat’s tactics strike me as troubling on another level. McCready seems confident that, even if some of the voters do not fall for his blatant distortions of Harris’s views, a considerable segment of the American electorate may in fact find traditional Christian views such as Harris’s “out of step” with who we are as Americans. In contradistinction to the claim made by McCready, I contend that McCready’s attack on traditional Christianity should be recognized as antithetical to what we stand for as Americans.[iv]
More importantly, I assert that McCready’s actions undermine the spirit of the protections afforded by the First Amendment. Our nation’s Founders considered the freedom of an individual’s religious views as being sacrosanct. The McCready campaign’s ads that take Harris’s statements about women and the family out of context should be denounced. The McCready campaign’s strategy of attacking Harris’s expression of his deeply held religious convictions should be condemned.
The message from McCready and the Democrat strategists could not be clearer: if you believe that the Bible teaches distinct roles for men and women in the family and in the church you might bea misogynist, but you certainly must keep that belief to yourself. Should you consider running for elective office prepare to have your statements taken out of context in ways that will portray you as evil and ignorant. You will come to know and feel the true meaning of being demonized. If you are looking for proof to back up my claim, look no farther than to the U.S. House of Representatives 9th Congressional District race between Mark Harris and Dan McCready. There is a great deal at stake.
[i]Mark Harris sermon, “The Modern Family,” First Baptist Charlotte, NC, May 9, 2013, accessed on October 28, 2018 at URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0HnlHQj9ds
[ii]“Paging Mark Harris; it’s the 21st century,”The Charlotte Observer, editorial board, accessed at URL https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorials/article214452539.html#storylink=cpyon October 29, 2018.
[iii]“NC congressional candidate once questioned whether careers were ‘healthiest pursuit’ for women,” byAdam Kelsey and John Verhovek, July 5, 2018 accessed at URL https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/nc-congressional-candidate-questioned-careers-healthiest-pursuit-w women/story?id=56342956on October 28, 2018.