Ruby Brooks, a veteran Tampa Bay Republican activist, said Harris’ remarks “were offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican.”
“To me, it’s the height of hubris,” said Brooks, a former Largo Republican Club president and former member of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee.
And Jillian Hasner, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said: “I don’t think it’s representative of the Republican Party at all. Our party is much bigger and better than Katherine Harris is trying to make it.”
Harris campaign spokesman Jennifer Marks would not say what alternative to “a nation of secular laws” Harris would support. She would not answer questions about the Harris interview and, instead, released a two-sentence statement.
The notion that non-Christians “don’t know better” or are less suited to govern disturbed Rabbi Rick Sherwin, president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis.
“Anybody who claims to have a monopoly on God,” he said, “doesn’t understand the strength of America.”
Sherwin and others also said Harris appeared to be voicing support for a religious state when she said God and the founding fathers did not intend the U.S. to be a “nation of secular laws.”
The alternative, they said, would be a nation of religious laws.
“She’s talking about a theocracy,” said Sherwin. “And that’s exactly opposite of what this country is based on.” A clause in the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a state religion.
Ahmed Bedier, the Central Florida director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said he was “appalled that a person who’s been in politics this long would hold such extreme views.”
Bedier said most Christians would find such comments “shameful.”
“It’s insane,” [University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato] said. “But it’s not out of character for Katherine Harris.”
Brooks, the Tampa area GOP activist, said such religious “arrogance” only damages the party.
“This notion that you’ve been chosen or anointed, it’s offensive,” said Brooks. “We hurt our cause with that more than we help it.”