WASHINGTON — Senate Republican candidate Tom Cotton on Tuesday injected faith into his campaign to unseat Mark Pryor, questioning the depth of the Democrat’s belief in the sanctity of life.
“Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings. That’s when we worship, but faith is what we live every single day and the government shouldn’t infringe on the rights of religious liberty,” Cotton said during an interview on KNWA television in Fayetteville.
Pryor, on Wednesday, demanded an apology for the comment calling it a “deeply personal attack.”
“He and I may disagree on issues, but for him to question my faith is out of bounds,” Pryor said in a press statement.
Cotton made his comment in response to a question about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling on Monday. In a 5-4 decision, the Court sided with the owners of the arts-and-craft store chain who sought a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act requirement that employer-based health plans cover emergency contraception.
Cotton said he was pleased with the decision but that the case itself was another example of how Obamacare “infringes on the liberties of all Arkansans.” He then went on to raise the question of the depth of Pryor’s faith.
The Pryor campaign issued a press release Wednesday denouncing Cotton for questioning Pryor’s faith. The campaign noted that Pryor has served four times as co-chair of the National Prayer Breakfast and quoted him as saying that “from a young age I have never shied away from talking about the importance of God in my life, and it’s my Christian faith that gives me comfort and guidance to be a steady voice for Arkansas in the Senate.”
Pryor is not a member of a particular congregation but has most often frequented the First Assembly of God in North Little Rock. Cotton is a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Dardanelle.
After Pryor’s call for an apology, Cotton issued a statement through his campaign that partially recanted his televised remark only to raise additional charges that Pryor supports taxpayer-funded abortion.
“He is a man of faith and practices it with commendable openness, which I respect, but I wish he would respect Arkansans’ right to practice our faith,” Cotton said. “Instead, Senator Pryor and President Obama still defend Obamacare even after the Supreme Court said it violated freedom of religion. Senator Pryor supports taxpayer-funded abortion and late-term abortion and would force Christians to pay for abortions despite their deeply held religious beliefs. That’s a real attack on faith.”
Erik Dorey, a spokesman for Pryor’s campaign, said that Cotton’s abortion claims were “absolutely false.”
Pryor has voted to prohibit federal funds from being used to pay for abortions and has voted to ban late-term abortions.
Cotton and Pryor do disagree on so-called “personhood” legislation. Cotton has co-sponsored a bill to declare that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution begins at the moment of fertilization. Pryor does not support it, according to Dorey.
“Unlike Congressman Cotton, Mark does not support outlawing common forms of birth control, including the pill and Plan B, which are used by women across the state of Arkansas,” Dorey said.