U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's campaign criticized his GOP challenger Sharron Angle on Wednesday for telling a religious broadcaster that the Obama administration is violating the First Commandment by expanding federal programs and making "government our God."
"We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government," Angle said in an April interview with TruNews Christian Radio. "We're supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not our government."
Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele charged that Angle's comments show the Southern Baptist believes her campaign "represents a holy crusade -- a religious 'war of ideology' in her words -- against government programs like Social Security and Medicare."
"Sharron Angle's unyielding antipathy toward all government programs is based not simply on political and ideological beliefs -- it's based on what she believes to be a religious crusade against government," Steele said after her remarks spread on the Internet and among bloggers.
Jarrod Agen, an Angle campaign spokesman, said she was suggesting that Reid, President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "have become these all powerful figures that are not accountable" to the public as they expand government and deepen the nation's debt and deficit.
"In some ways that's like a God complex," Agen said. "They're passing programs like the health care law against the will of a majority of Americans. The point that she was making was these all are powerful figures that are not accountable and they need to be stopped."
The Reid attack Wednesday is just the latest attempt by the Democratic incumbent to portray the conservative Tea Party favorite as too extreme.
Angle, in turn, has tried to keep the close race focused on what she and other Republicans and fiscal conservatives see as a Democrat-run federal government out of control.
Joe Valenzano, a communications professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said Angle invoking God appeals to her conservative base and strikes a chord among Americans who aren't regular churchgoers but privately believe in divine intervention in their lives. But it also opens her to attacks of "going too far," especially for those who believe in a strict separation of church and state.
"Some on the left don't particularly want to hear this, or construe it as God-mongering, or something like that," Valenzano said. "So it can hurt you with some parts of the political spectrum."
The former Reno assemblywoman has done dozens of interviews with conservative TV and radio broadcasters, including one recently where she described her campaign as a "calling" from God. Her comments have given the Reid campaign plenty of fodder for near daily attacks.
Angle's comments about the First Commandment came during the hotly contested GOP primary as she touted ideas to shrink government by closing some federal agencies and overturning or halting Democratic spending programs that hadn't turned around the crashing economy.
"These programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God," Angle said in the April interview that got little attention since she was in third place at the time. "And that's really what's happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment."
The First Commandment warns "thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Angle spokesman Agen said Reid is hypocritical for criticizing her for speaking about God and politics since he has said that he can't separate his religious and political beliefs.
"It's not unusual for candidates to discuss religion," Agen said. "It's hypocritical for him to attack Angle for discussing her religious beliefs and politics when he has done the same thing."
Reid, who like Angle is devout, is a prominent member of the Mormon church.
In an October 2007 speech at Brigham Young University in Utah, Reid talked to an audience of believers about why it's possible for a Democrat to share their conservative religion.
"My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined," Reid said. "I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it."
Reid went further in the speech and explained why people sometimes have to rely on government and not only God to help them, especially those facing tragedy or misfortune.
"As we learned in the man-made tragedy of September 11, 2001, during a crisis people have only three places to look for help: family, government and God," Reid said. "I say government can be our friend. Some say it is never our friend."
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