You would think that making an issue of a candidate’s Catholicism is just so 20th century. Didn’t we get over that in 1960?

But no.

In the governor’s race in Louisiana, the spectre of anti-Catholicism has now reared its ugly head. This dispatch comes from the 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.

Blogger Rod Dreher has also weighed in, over at Beliefnet:

Look, if you’re not a conservative, you’re probably not going to want Jindal to be your governor. No harm, no foul. But the Louisiana Democratic Party really is working overtime to smear the guy. Did you know they’ve been calling him “Piyush” — his birth name — to remind the good ol’ boys that he ain’t one of us? Yes, his legal name is Piyush, and yes, he did write openly and passionately about his newfound faith back in his early 20s. So the Dems aren’t making it up. But boy, do they look bad taking this line of attack. I guess they have to do something, given how badly the current Democratic governor screwed things up. Still, ginning up Catholic-Protestant animosity is wrong.

Indeed. Will anyone else call them on it?

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