Continued false attacks on Ben Chin’s Christian faith prompt flood of support
Lewiston mayoral candidate Ben Chin has seen a new flood of support as the Maine Republican Party and controversial GOP lawmaker Larry Lockman have continued their attacks on his Christian faith, with fellow Christians in Lewiston, the Speaker of the Maine House and Maine’s Episcopal Bishop all coming to his defense.
“With sadness I’ve followed the attacks on Ben Chin, mayoral candidate in Lewiston. I believe the recent attack on social media by a Maine legislator – one that focuses on Ben’s identification as a Christian – demands a response. Ben is a faithful Episcopalian and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston where he has served in leadership positions and continues to be licensed by me as a lay preacher,” said Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine in a statement yesterday. “Spirited public discourse is an important part of our civic life. Personal attacks on the character, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs are not.”
“This has no place in our public discourse,” House Speaker Mark Eves told the Lewiston Sun Journal. “It’s become commonplace in the Republican party. It’s hate speech; it needs to be called out and the Republican leaders need to do something about it. It’s really over the top, disgusting and has gone on too long.”
Eves also called on Lockman to resign.
“‘Anti-Christian bigot’? That’s actually hilarious! Is it Opposite Day? Have him call me or anyone else who saw you grow up in our church, who witnessed your leadership in our youth group, or who served with you on the Session while you were still in high school so we can have a little chat. Seriously, is it Opposite Day?” wrote Facebook user Nat Hunter in a comment.
“Funny these claims since the first time I met you and talked about doing anti-poverty organizing back in the early 2000s, it was in the campus chaplain’s office at Bates and you were one of the leading members of the faith community on campus,” commented Conrad Ryan.
Despite near-universal condemnation of the attacks, the Maine Republican Party stood by them. Maine GOP Chair Richard Bennett falsely claimed to Maine Public Radio that “it doesn’t appear that Chin is challenging the accuracy of what being said about him.”
In reference to the online GOP ad that took fractions of sentences from a sermon Chin delivered defending Christianity and the compassion of the gospel and strung them together to give the false impression that Chin was anti-Christian, Maine Republican Party Executive Director would say only that “he can go ahead and explain the context if he wants.”
Both men refused to condemn Lockman’s characterization of Chin as an “anti-Christian bigot.”
The dissembling of GOP leaders prompted some Republicans to take to Twitter to call out their Party.
“Not endorsing his conclusions, but Chin’s sermons are intelligent examinations of the Christian conscience by a devout Christian,” wrote former Maine Heritage Policy Center head Lance Dutson. “What [Bennett and Savage] have done here is one of the lowest things I’ve ever seen in politics, Maine or national. Depraved.”
— Lance Dutson (@ldutson) November 12, 2015
Others were more concerned about the effect the backlash would have on the re-election chances of conservative incumbent mayor Robert Macdonald.
“It’s unfortunate for Mayor MacDonald however, because the stupider the [Maine GOP] gets, the more it’ll be used against him,” wrote conservative activist Chris Dixon. “It’s almost as if [the Maine GOP] the is trying to sabotage the incumbent Mayor.”
In a fundraising email sent earlier this week, Savage pledged that the party would “give Mayor MacDonald all the help we can before the December 8th Election.”
Reached by the Sun Journal, Macdonald refused to condemn his allies’ attacks, claiming that he hadn’t seen them because he doesn’t own a computer.
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