A group of faith leaders on Thursday condemned mailers sent out by Republican attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow as Islamophobic and intended to spread fear.
Wardlow's fundraising mailers lambaste his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, calling him "one of the most dangerous men in America" and saying he "pals around with radical Islamic groups and defends known terrorists."
Wardlow's mailers "are a significant departure from what America is all about. He has chosen to attack his opponent's religion and he has chosen to attack religious institutions," said Imam Asad Zaman, who spoke at a news conference along with two Lutheran pastors and a rabbi.
Zaman is executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society, which paid for Ellison's 2008 trip to the holy site of Mecca. Wardlow's mailers note that trip, and call the organization an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist religious and cultural organization with adherents in many countries. Some have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being a terrorist organization, but it says it condemns violence.
Zaman said his organization is an American institution that provides community services and a place to pray. He charged that Wardlow is trying to "scapegoat" Muslim Americans.
The religious leaders said Wardlow should renounce the comments in the mailers and return any money he raised through them.
Wardlow's campaign manager, Billy Grant, countered that people should be concerned with Ellison's connection to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a history of anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. Ellison participated in the group's 1995 "Million Man March." He has since disavowed Farrakhan.
With less than three weeks until Election Day, political attacks have become a near-daily occurrence in the tight race to be Minnesota's next chief legal officer. On Thursday, the state DFL Party also called out Wardlow for a comment he made about a "second unwritten Constitution" in a 2013 speech at a Lone Oak Tea Party event.
In the speech, Wardlow said the U.S. Constitution "has only succeeded to the extent it has been governed by people who are moral and capable of self-government" and who value families as a building block of society.
"You cannot have liberty without strong families. You cannot have liberty with marriage redefined to include homosexual marriage," Wardlow said.
Wardlow argued against same-sex marriage in his past work at the conservative Christian organization Alliance Defending Freedom. If elected attorney general, Wardlow has said he would defend all laws, including same-sex marriage.
In his 2013 speech, Wardlow went on to say the institutions and values of family and faith make up a "second Constitution of sorts" that is inherited from "a long tradition, a Judeo-Christian tradition."
The DFL posted his comments on its website "Real Doug Wardlow" and questioned which Constitution Wardlow would defend if elected, and whether Minnesotans can trust him to defend the rights of all people.
"Doug was referring to a concept in jurisprudence called the ethic of legal obligation. That is the basic concept that people should obey the law," Grant said. He said Democrats are trying to spread misinformation.