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Rep. Joseph Cao Calls Christian Group 'Ignorant' for Costing Him Election

3 years ago
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Louisiana GOP Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao is still smarting over the successful efforts of a leading lobby of the Christian right to defeat him in last week's election, a loss that denied Republicans a chance to hold a traditionally Democratic seat and ensure a second term for the first Vietnamese-American in Congress.

While the defeat was easily overlooked in the Republicans' euphoria after their sweep of the House, Cao remains angry at Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council for launching a last-minute radio ad against him, and for effectively fragging a fellow pro-lifer who is a former Jesuit seminarian and was once considered a model for a more diverse Republican Party.

"For a conservative Christian organization to attack a Republican pro-life candidate in a general election is as ignorant as it is inexcusable," Cao told Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical Protestant psychologist and author.

Throckmorton is known for his views on Christianity and homosexuality, which are often more welcoming to gays and lesbians -- while not accepting homosexual acts as morally neutral -- than many hardline evangelicals.

Cao's approach to homosexual rights also got him into trouble with Perkins and the FRC, despite his own conservative Catholic and pro-life bona fides. Cao co-sponsored both the Hate Crimes Protection Act of 2009 and legislation to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, and that was enough to label him a traitor to the cause in the eyes of Tony Perkins, who had enthusiastically endorsed Cao in 2008.

"In the last two years [Cao] has amassed one of the worst voting records of any Republican in Congress on our issues," Perkins told Throckmorton in a statement.

Perkins, a leading lobbyist for Christian conservatives, also said his group's opposition to Cao was about more than a single district.

"I also wanted to send a very clear message to Republicans across the country; if you take a stand against the family, we will take a stand against you," Perkins said. "These squishy Republicans need to know that we will come after them, just like the Democrats."

Yet as Throckmorton noted -- and as documented by the authors of "American Grace," a comprehensive new study of religion in the U.S. -- Americans of all faiths are becoming more accepting of homosexuals and gay rights even as they have become more pro-life. That growing divide is a decided contrast to the efforts of many Christian conservatives, from evangelical Protestants to the nation's Catholic bishops, who increasingly see opposition to abortion and gay rights as two sides of the same coin.

In that sense, the Cao loss and the ongoing fallout could be a lesson that should not be lost on the GOP once the post-election euphoria wears off.

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