March 27th, 2010
10:11 PM ET

Faith, health care politics clash in key Ohio district

Ohio is the land where the post-2004 wave of Democratic faith-based organizing began. It's the state where an anti-gay marriage initiative helped turn out enough conservative religious voters to hand a second term to George W. Bush -  which made it the natural starting place for the Democrats to begin their attempt to close the God Gap.

Those efforts helped elect Democrat Ted Strickland, a former minister, as Ohio governor in 2006;  helped Obama easily take the Buckeye State in 2008; and helped Democrats pick up a U.S. Senate seat and a handful of House sets in the state in the last couple of election cycles.

All of which is to say that a new faith-based campaign in the state defending Democratic Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus and denouncing House Republican Leader John Boehner - who represents Ohio's 8th congressional district - bears watching.

The campaign comes in response to comments Boehner made in a recent interview with the National Review Online about antiabortion Democrats who supported the health care bill.

“Take [Rep.] Steve Driehaus, for example,” Boehner said in the interview, published March 18. “He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati. The Catholics will run him out of town.”

This week, faithful liberals in Ohio took aim at those remarks, tying them to the threats of violence reported by lawmakers over their votes on the recently passed health care bill. Here's an excerpt from a Friday letter to Boehner from the executive director of Catholic Democrats Ohio:

I wonder if you feel the anxiety experienced by so many people in the Cincinnati community, and particularly Rep. Steve Driehaus’s family, as a result of your comments, and the subsequent political attack ads that target his children. I wonder if you have thought how the Driehaus’s will spend this weekend with a demonstration being planned for Palm Sunday outside of their home in Cincinnati.

A group of some three dozen religious leaders around Cincinnati - Catholic priests, nuns, Protestant ministers, rabbis and others - issued a separate, open letter Friday decrying Boehner's threats against Rep. Driehaus and connecting them to a broad campaign of "attacks" against Driehaus:

...recent and planned attacks on Rep. Steve Driehaus and his family have gone far beyond the bounds of what a civil society should tolerate. Hostile out-of-town protestors have picketed his home while his wife and children were present and he was in Washington. Anti-health care reform groups have placed pictures of his young daughters in newspaper ads. House Minority Leader John Boehner suggested that Rep. Driehaus is a “dead man” in his district because of his vote on health care. National news reports indicate that more protests are planned for this weekend at Rep. Driehaus’s home.

These actions fly in the face of our shared values. They are not pro-life. They are certainly not patriotic.

Will be interesting to see if these moves translate into Catholic support for Driehaus, who's in one of the most competitive House races in the country this year. Will the same tactics be adopted by other Democrats who say the current attacks against them go too far?

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.