In May, while running for the Republican nomination for governor, Sen. David Williams referred to Democrats as "the same people that brought you Aqua Buddha."
He was, of course, referring to Jack Conway's embarrassing and inappropriate TV ad in last year's U.S. Senate race. Conway accused opponent Rand Paul of worshipping a "false god" when Paul's undergraduate hi-jinks — which reportedly included worshipping an imaginary Aqua Buddha — came to light.
In a June Herald-Leader article about religion and politics in Kentucky, Williams said it was not right to campaign against an opponent based on his religion. "My campaign will not engage in that activity."
So, why did Williams slam Gov. Steve Beshear for participating in a Hindu "ground blessing" for a new plant in Elizabethtown?
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Let's make it clear that Williams didn't criticize Beshear's religion. Instead, Williams took on Beshear for being respectful of someone else's religion. The someone is Flex Films, a company from India investing $180 million in a plant that will employ 250.
Beshear and local dignitaries sat on cushions on the floor during a Hindu ceremony blessing the project.
Williams, far behind in the polls with a week until the election, veered off the high road he committed to in May. He found Beshear's hour-long, cross-legged floor sitting (pretty good for a man of 67) shocking, absolutely shocking.
"To get down and get involved and participate in prayers to these polytheistic situations, where you have these Hindu gods that they are praying to, doesn't appear to me to be in line with what a governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky ought to be doing," Williams said in a campaign speech. He himself has visited places where Hindu rites were being celebrated but declined to participate. "That would be idolatry."
Campaigns, particularly losing ones, make people crazy. So it's not so surprising that Williams took this desperate jab.
The sad thing is that this tactic assumes a low opinion of Kentucky voters. There's not a religious test for holding office in Kentucky or anywhere else in this country, where freedom of religion is a fundamental and cherished right.
Aqua Buddha was a silly college fantasy; Hinduism is a religion practiced by millions with roots that go back thousands of years. Neither is a legitimate campaign issue in Kentucky.