La. Governor's Race: Catholic vs. Protestant Furor

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A political ad from the Louisiana governor's race is drawing a storm of criticism for accusing Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal of calling Protestants "scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical."

Democrats say the state party's 30-second TV spot, running in heavily Protestant central and north Louisiana, simply explains Jindal's beliefs with his own words, using portions of the Catholic congressman's religious writings through the 1990s, before he was an elected official.

Jindal, who is running for governor, said the ad distorts his writings.

A lawyer for his campaign has sent a letter to nine television stations saying the commercial is defamatory and asking them to stop showing it. Fellow Republicans and the head of a national Catholic organization called the ad a smear campaign.

State Democratic Party officials said they won't drop it.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Party said the ad is slated to run for about a week. It features an actress saying Jindal doesn't respect other people's religions and directs viewers to a Web site with links to several articles Jindal wrote on Catholicism.

"He wrote articles that insulted thousands of Louisiana Protestants," the narrator says.

A review of Jindal's writings on Catholicism, however, show his positions on faith to be more nuanced than the ad suggests.

In a 1996 article for New Oxford Review, a Roman Catholic magazine, Jindal talks of the Catholic religion as the true Christian faith and refers to a "scandalous series of divisions and new denominations" of religions since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.

But he also wrote of the binding ties of Christianity and says the Catholic Church must incorporate the "spirit-led movements" of other Christian faiths.

Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, a watchdog group, called the commercial a "scurrilous smear" job.

"It's beneath contempt, an insult to everyone regardless of faith, and it will spell the Louisiana Democratic Party's own undoing," said Michael DiResto, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Louisiana.

Neither of the major Democratic candidates, state Sen. Walter Boasso and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, has called for the ad to be withdrawn.

Bob Mann, a former strategist for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who isn't running for re-election in the Oct. 20 primary, said the ad distracts from more important topics in the governor's race, like hurricane recovery, health care and education.