We have a fight over prayer that’s not just about how and when one talks to God.
On Wednesday, we told you about the new TV spot from Sam Olens, Republican candidate for attorney general, which touted his defense of an opening invocation given at meetings of the Cobb County Commission – which he chaired:
Former federal prosecutor Max Wood of Macon, one of Olens’ two primary opponents, pronounced himself profoundly “disappointed.”
From Wood’s press release:
Olens brags that he helped set up a regular invocation before Cobb County Commission meetings. He does not tell voters, however, that he allowed an atheist to perform an “invocation.”
“As a Christian and as an American, I am insulted that Olens would allow a man without faith to stand up at a public meeting and encourage others to give up their religion,” Wood said. “As a candidate in this race, I am insulted that Olens would brag about this without telling voters the full story.”
In 2005, Smyrna atheist Ed Buckner was one of seven Cobb residents who with the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit to halt the practice of invocations before meetings of the board of commissioner and planning commission.
This is the lawsuit that Olens speaks of winning.
Immediately afterwards, in July of last year, Buckner served notice that he wanted to give the invocation at a county commission meeting.
Wood has referred his supporters to the AJC article documenting the incident:
No need to bow your heads, folks.
That’s what Smyrna atheist Edward Buckner told people before leading the invocationTuesday night at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting.
“It’s actually a protest against invocations,” the president of American Atheists said Wednesday night. “My goal is to get them to stop doing invocations.”
County board of commissioners chairman Sam Olens, reached by phone Wednesday night, said he was offended by Buckner’s actions.
“Did I find his comments repugnant and insulting? Yes,” Olens said. “He abused the process by giving an opinion … rather than providing inspiration.”
In a telephone interview this morning, Olens said that, under the First Amendment, he had no choice but to let Buckner speak. Picking and choosing who could give a public prayer would only have landed the county right back in court.
“What [Wood] is saying is, if you don’t like the law, don’t apply it. Which is a strange position for an attorney general,” Olens said.
After the incident, Olen said he sent a letter to Buckner saying that his conduct had proven that the atheist was not interested in spiritual communication, and would be not be allowed to repeat his action.
There is a subtext to this discussion that no one is addressing. Olens is Jewish. Wood, as he prominently notes in his press release, is Christian.
Olens understands what’s going on, too. The topic of prayer wasn’t accidental. And that fellow standing at his side in the TV ad above is the Rev. Earnest Easley of Roswell Street Baptist Church, one of Cobb’s largest – and certainly the most influential.
Olens has also snagged the endorsement of House Majority Leader Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island, a former head of the Georgia Christian Coalition. And it’s worth noting that the former commission chairman was one of Ralph Reed’s early supporters in his unsuccessful 2006 bid for lieutenant governor.
This reporter nearly had a heart attack this morning when he checked the log of State Ethics Commission and found that Republican Karen Handel was reporting that she had only $9,119.14 available for spending through the July 20 primary.
But the report was for Handel’s secretary of state account, not her gubernatorial treasury.
With only 12 days to go before the July 20, state Rep. Randal Mangham of DeKalb County sent out his first press release as a Democratic candidate for governor on Wednesday.
The release noted that the candidate had been interviewed by WXIA-TV. From the press release:
[Mangham] welcomed the opportunity to get his message out to voters and wanted to dispel the misconception that he is an “obscure” or “stealth” candidate…. “This race is not about Randal Mangham. And yes, sometimes it’s a lonely journey,” he said during the televised interview. “But this state needs a new direction.”
The two Democratic candidates for attorney general, Ken Hodges and Rob Teilhet, continue to play tug-of-war over endorsements. From today’s Macon Telegraph:
[I]n the race to see who will become the state’s next attorney general, one candidate is advertising that Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena supports him, while another one actually has Modena’s endorsement.
The rub was made public Wednesday in a statement issued by candidate Rob Teilhet’s campaign.
Modena said he remembers sitting beside one of Teilhet’s opponents, Ken Hodges, at the Georgia State Fair. Hodges asked for his support, and Modena replied that he would think about it — but didn’t make a commitment or contribute to Hodges’ campaign. The sheriff later decided to support Teilhet and contributed $150 to his campaign.
It came as a surprise when phone calls started coming in this week and Modena heard that Hodges was saying he had Modena’s endorsement. Also, Modena’s name was listed on the Hodges campaign Web site Wednesday in a list of sheriffs that had endorsed Hodges.
Shannon Marietta, a spokeswoman for the Hodges campaign, had this response:
“It was a small clerical error made by a staffer. Hodges still has the largest group of law enforcement endorsements in the state.”
The Rome News Tribune reports that, during a town hall meeting on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey took a relaxed view on a favorite topic of tea partyists:
One person asked Congressman Gingrey if he was for setting term limits for politicians.
“The American people pretty much set the terms and that’s the way the House was meant to be. There is such a turnover that I believe it works. I don’t really think that we really have to have term limits, but if we did I think I would set it at maybe 18 years,” answered Gingrey.
When another person asked him to provide a yes or no answer on if he would support term limits Gingrey added, “Yes, I would support looking at something. At this point I’m a little undecided about what the appropriate length of time should be.”