DETROIT, July 10 (JTA) A Michigan congressional candidate’s attack against his opponent for not being Christian has unleashed a firestorm of criticism. State Rep. William Callahan, a Democrat, told the Associated Press last week that he was more representative of his redrawn Detroit-area congressional district than the Jewish incumbent, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, (D-Mich.). Callahan’s attack is “truly unfortunate and the worst kind of politics, ” said Howard Wallach, vice chairman of the Michigan chapter of the Anti-Defamtion League. Callahan said Levin should not represent the district because redistricting has made it more conservative and mostly Roman Catholic. In an interview, he then went on to attack Levin: “I mean, that man has never owned a Christmas tree. He’s not a Christian. And I´m thinking, ‘Jeez, how can he represent me then?’ ” Callahan later told the Detroit Free Press that he had indeed made the comments, but they were quoted "grossly out of context." Levin, who is seeking an 11th term, said the statements made by Callahan “have no place in America.” “The issue of religious affiliation in American politics was put to rest over 40 years ago by John F. Kennedy,” Levin said. “Religion is important to us in America; it is practiced privately and with great pride. It should never be exploited for political purposes,” Levin said. “I am confident that, like Americans elsewhere, Macomb residents are repelled by suggestions that they should vote for or against a candidate based on their religion or ethnicity.” Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said, “There are many ways to run a campaign for the United States Congress, but the use of bigotry ought not be one of them.” “William Callahan finds fault in Congressman Levin because he is not a Christian and never owned a Christmas tree,” Hier said. “If America used such standards, we would not only undermine the very fabric upon which our country was built, but we would convert America into a backward feudal state where race and religion, rather than accomplishment, decide the worth of an individual.” State Democratic officials distanced themselves from Callahan. State Rep. Samuel “Buzz” Thomas, leader of the House Democratic Caucus, said “I was extremely disappointed to read what I did in the newspaper and to hear the comments by Rep. Callahan,” he said. “Statements like his have no place in the Democratic Party that I’m a leader of and would want to be a leader of.” Thomas personally called to apologize to local Jewish leaders.
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