Two GOP Candidates For Governor In Slugfest Over School Prayer

LIBERTY, Ky. (AP) - In the contest for conservative voters, Gov.
Ernie Fletcher and his chief opponent in the GOP primary election
are in a bitter argument over who is the biggest supporter of
prayer in public schools.
Fletcher had aired a television ad last week that said
Republican challenger Anne Northup, a former congresswoman from
Louisville, had voted against school prayer.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Northup said in
recorded telephone calls to Republicans across the state. "I have
voted time after time in support of prayer in our schools, and as
governor I look forward to protecting this right. As a matter of
fact, I have consistently argued that taking God out of our schools
has undermined our children's faith."
Northup, who served in Congress for 10 years before losing the
seat to a Democrat last year, voted against a 1998 resolution that
called for a constitutional amendment that would have allowed
voluntary school prayer.
At a campaign stop in Liberty on Monday, Northup said she voted
against the resolution because it would have allowed teachers to
lead the prayers, which meant adults of one religion could have
been in a position to lead children of another religion in prayer.
"Christian families do not want teacher-led prayer in their
classrooms," Northup said.
Northup, visiting farm equipment manufacturer Tarter Industries
on Monday, said she has voted 14 other times in favor of school
prayer. Fletcher, on a campaign swing through western Kentucky on
Monday, stayed clear of the issue in stump speeches.
His campaign manager, however, did not.
"It's an issue that's important to Republican voters, and it's
an issue that illustrates the difference between the type of leader
that Governor Fletcher is and that Anne Northup would be,"
campaign manager Marty Ryall. "It's a clear contrast."
One of the co-sponsors of the resolution, former U.S. Rep. Bob
Barr of Georgia, took Fletcher's side in the squabble.
"This amendment, if adopted, would have allowed voluntary
school prayer," Barr said in a recorded statement the Fletcher
campaign used in phone calls to Republican voters over the weekend.
"Unfortunately, Anne Northup was the only Republican congressional
member from Kentucky who voted against the school prayer
Barr, who served eight years as a Republican congressman before
losing his seat in 2002, weighed in on the issue at the request of
the Fletcher campaign.
"Governor Fletcher supports the freedom to pray in school, and
he's telling you the truth about Anne Northup's vote against it,"
Barr said. "I know. I was there. And it was my bill."
A third GOP candidate, Paducah businessman Billy Harper, has
stayed clear of the debate.
"Billy supports prayer in school," his spokesman, Sam Edelen,
said. "He does not support the negativity and mean-spiritedness
his opponents are using in an effort to gain political advantage.
Billy's keeping his head down, working hard and watching the mud
fly over."
In the final week before the May 22 primary election,
gubernatorial candidates are traveling the state, urging supporters
to vote.
On Monday, Fletcher began a bus tour and was making stops in
western Kentucky. Harper was in the Louisville area. And Northup
was in the south-central part of the state.
Democratic candidates ended the day in Lexington for a debate
being broadcast live from a Kentucky Educational Television studio.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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