Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee David Williams, who is also president of the state Senate, appeared Monday morning in an interview with the local Fox affiliate in Louisville, in an effort to boost his underdog campaign in the home stretch. And of course, the local TV host asked Williams about the continued controversy that Williams kicked up in the campaign in the last week — when he attacked Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear for participating in a Hindu religious ceremony, and subsequently called upon Hindus to come to Jesus.
“Well, my criticism was not for his attendance,” Williams told host Lindsay Allen (more on that later). “You know, Governor Beshear is the one that’s made a big deal out of him being — his father being a Baptist minister, his grandfather being a Baptist minister. I just think that Governor Beshear needs to treat Christians as well as he does Hindus and other folks.
“For example, he didn’t want to call the Christmas tree a Christmas tree, he didn’t want to participate in Bell County prayers before schools. But those are diversions. You know, I’ve said publicly and have talked to the national Hindu association that I don’t criticize anyone because of their religion.
(In fact, Williams’s conversation with the Hindu American Foundation did not go very well.)
“And Governor Beshear is not Hindu — he says he’s a Baptist. Bottom line of it is, there’s not place in government for anyone that will discriminate against anyone because of their creed or their religion, and I surely won’t.
“This has been a distraction, because the real issue in this campaign is the creation of jobs, and I have a real plan to create real jobs,” Williams said, touting the achievements of Republican governors such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana, John Kasich of Ohio, and GOP governors throughout the South.
Allen asked Williams whether he regretted his comments about Hindus.
“I regret the distraction. I regret the distraction that Governor Beshear and others try to disparage me as being an intolerant person,” said Williams. “Every Christian has the opinion that I do, that they hope people find Christ. That does not mean that we disparage anyone else, or disrespect anyone else. I respect everyone’s right.”
Asked whether he would take part in the Hindu prayer ceremony, Williams responded: “I would attend, I would attend any ceremony that was part of an official function, but I would not participate. Now, you and I diverting from the real issue even right now, you know.”
The polls throughout the race have shown Beshear heavily favored to win re-election — such as one out last week from the Louisville Courier-Journal, with Beshear ahead of Williams by a margin of 54%-29%.
A week and a half ago, Beshear attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a new factory run by FlexFilm, a company based in India that makes materials for packaging, printing, insulation and other purposes. The plant represents a $180 million investment, and is expected to create 250 jobs in Kentucky.
The groundbreaking included a Hindu ceremony, the bhoomi poojan, which was covered by a local paper. On Tuesday, Williams attacked Beshear’s participation in the ceremony as “idolatry.” and “prayers to false gods.”
“He’s there participating with Hindu priests, participating in a religious ceremony,” Williams said. “They can say what they want to. He’s sitting down there with his legs crossed, participating in Hindu prayers with a dot on his forehead with incense burning around him. I don’t know what the man was thinking.”
Williams further told reporters: “If I’m a Christian, I don’t participate in Jewish prayers. I’m glad they do that. I don’t participate in Hindu prayers. I don’t participate in Muslim prayers. I don’t do that. 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.”