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Martin defends radio comments warning of government's threat to God

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 14, 2010 - Republican congressional hopeful Ed Martin embraces the view that almost any sort of publicity is good publicity.

Which is why he was exuding wonder and excitement Tuesday over the news that he was attracting national attention for his earlier radio interview in which he asserted that President Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, are putting the public's salvation at risk.

Still, Martin contends that Democrats -- notably the allied blog site firedupmissouri.com, which first broke the story -- are misrepresenting his comments about the threat to religion posed by those now running Washington Monday on conservative Gina Loudon's new radio show.

His point, Martin said in an interview Tuesday, is that, "we're creating a class dependent on government. Freedom means you have an opportunity to do things for yourself."

Less freedom, said Martin, can ultimately mean that "you're not able to choose whether you want to worship God or not."

Or put another way, Martin continued: "When people are living in a country dependent on goverment, they lose the ability and the habit of becoming free. Among the freedoms is whether they want to be open to worshiping God."

It's up to the listener to decide if Martin's clarification is any different from his original comments.

In any case, Carnahan said in a statement late Tuesday that he's outraged -- period.

"It is shameful that Ed Martin would use faith to divide rather than unite. This is a baseless attack on my faith and my family," the congressman said.

"My own Christian faith has guided me throughout my life. My wife and I have raised our family with the strong values faith has taught me, including service to the community, standing up for civil rights and working to protect religious freedom for all faiths.

"Ed Martin's campaign of personal destruction and fear mongering reveals much more about his true character than anything else. This attack demonstrates his willingness to say or do anything to score political points. Ed Martin has crossed the line and this new low is exactly the kind of campaigning that turns voters off from the importance of public service."

Martin denies that he's crossed any line and contends that it's the congressman who's pushing the envelope.

Earlier this week, Martin filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Carnahan's congressional operation had been improperly paying a hefty rent a few years back for the use of what Martin calls "a derelict building" owned by a corporation set up by the congressman.

Carnahan's staff cites FEC rulings that allow for a candidate to rent space in a building that he or she owns. His staff said that Martin's characterization was false, and that "the rent was fair market value and used for maintenance of the building."

Said Carnahan campaign manager Angela Barranco: "There is no story here -- Ed Martin is the only candidate who is not following the law for his own benefit. The record shows, Ed Martin failed to file, as required by law, his personal financial disclosure report for nearly 300 days."

In any case, even Martin would admit that such back-and-forth disputes -- including his latest FEC complaint -- are taking a back seat to the media attention he's attracting by bringing God into the mix.

And as Martin sees it, in the long run, that not be so bad.

Later this morning, Martin's campaign sought to use the affair to boost his fund-raising.

In the donation solicitation, Martin declared that "this election is an intersection election and I am deeply concerned that, left unabated, the current trends against freedom will force religion from the public square. 

"I believe this and said that the rapid and thorough encroachment on our liberties by President Obama and the Pelosi-Carnahan Congress is disturbing.  I believe religious liberties are in peril as well and said as much."

Martin's donor request then adds with pride: "The left went nuts...You know you made the big time when you get called down by Chris Matthews on MSNBC and are held up for ridicule to dozens of people nationwide."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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