In all the writing on Republican attacks on Ben Chin’s Christian faith, attention has focused on one example in particular.
Based on his reading of a blog post put up by the Maine GOP selectively quoting a sermon Ben Chin gave in Lewiston’s Trinity Episcopal Church, Lockman called Chin “an anti-Christian bigot” and said “Chin hates America, hates Americans, and hates Christians.” [source]
As Republican strategist Lance Dutson notes, the quote that provoked Lockman to make these claims came about after staff at the Maine Republican Party “went to the website of an Episcopal Church, pulled bits and pieces of multiple sermons from the site, and reconstructed them to create the illusion that a Democratic candidate, Ben Chin, made anti-Christian statements.”
Moreover, notes Dutson:
The Maine Republican Party staffers posted their frankenstein quote without context on a website, inaccurately attributed them as if they were contiguous, and circulated the quotes to question the candidate’s religious leanings. [source]
What’s been overlooked is another case of the Maine GOP attacking the sincerity of Chin’s Christianity.
The same site that includes what Dutson calls a “frankenstein quote” claims that Chin offered a “mock prayer” at a political protest at a bank.
Prayers at political events, including protests, are as old as the republic itself. In the twentieth century, the civil rights movement, often led by religious leaders, used religious imagery and offered prayers.
Yet the Maine GOP, targeting Chin, a certified lay minister at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston, claims Chin’s prayer was not real but rather mocked people of faith.
This is a screenshot of that part of the GOP’s anti-Chin post:
The blog post’s language is, in general, overwrought, and somehow finds it meaningful to mention that Chin was wearing a particular item of clothing that probably most people own.
The Maine GOP Chair has refused to take responsibility for attacks on Chin’s faith and said, “I certainly do not condone passing judgment on people’s faith and/or their commitment to America or anything of that nature.”
However, the party’s own website does pass judgment on the sincerity of Chin’s faith by saying he offered a “mock prayer.”
The GOP should listen to voices calling on them to turn away from these attacks.
One voice in particular is the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.
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.
While the Episcopal Diocese of Maine does not engage in advocacy in elections, we adamantly subscribe to the Maine Council of Churches’ Covenant for Civil Discourse. Tenets in the Covenant include acting respectfully towards others, including those in opposition, and to refrain from personal attacks as well as statements that characterize an opponent as evil, among others.
Spirited public discourse is an important part of our civic life. Personal attacks on the character, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs are not. I call on all public officials and those seeking elected office, regardless of party or affiliation, to act in a way that reflects respect for every human being.
The full Covenant for Civil Discourse, a statement that all state and national candidates are invited to sign, may be found athttp://mainecouncilofchurches.org/…/covenant-for-civil-dis…/