Todd Akin (R), the six-term Missouri congressman who is running for Senate in 2012, has apologized for accusing liberals of hating God.
After NBC redacted "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, as recited by children, during its U.S. Open golf coverage on June 19, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins hosted Akin on his weekly webcast radio show to talk about it. Since 2002, his second year in Congress, Akin has introduced the Pledge Protection Act, which declares that only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the Pledge. In that year, a federal appeals court banned schools from forcing children to recite the words "under God." The Supreme Court reversed the decision in 2004.
Part of that June 24 interview proceeded as follows:
PERKINS: Why would NBC do this?
AKIN: Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal, and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and the belief that government should replace God. And so they've had a long history of not being at all favorable toward many of the things that have been such a blessing to our country. You know, Tony, that the phrase Under God was taken as a result of a sermon ...
Conservatives such as Bill O'Reilly have, for many years, asserted that liberals are waging a culture war on Christianity, but Akin's comment about "hatred for God" proved a bridge too far. After initially telling KMOX radio that "I don't think there's anything to apologize for," Akin elaborated in a follow-up statement Tuesday, the St. Louis Beacon reports:
"People, who know me and my family, know that we take our faith and beliefs very seriously. As Christians, we would never question the sincerity of anyone's personal relationship with God. My statement during my radio interview was directed at the political movement, Liberalism not at any specific individual. If my statement gave a different impression, I offer my apologies."
Which is the classic, conditional non-apology: If I offended you, I'm sorry. The congressman apologized for that offense and redirected his criticism at the political movement, rather than individual people. Akin said more, but not much more, in an interview with KMOV TV.
There is, of course, a healthy liberal Christian movement in the U.S., one that includes advocacy groups like Faith in the Public Life, Sojourners, and Catholic Democrats, though the corpus of faith-motivated liberalism sometimes gets overlooked. Akin's apology isn't sitting too well in that sphere.
Neither is it sitting too well with some Christian leaders in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: Akin has taken criticism from numerous religious figures in the metro area. Akin's district covers suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas outside the mostly liberal city.
Akin is vying for the GOP Senate nomination against former state treasurer Sarah Steelman. The winner will challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, an incumbent elected in 2006 and now seen as vulnerable.
Akin, I'll vouch, is a nice guy. I've interviewed him before; he's generally kind, mild mannered, and seems thoughtful. (We also went to rival high schools, for which we mutually forgave one another, despite years of brainwashing. Curiously, his is the less formal and more liberal of the two.) But people will continue to be offended by what Akin's said. He isn't helped by the fact that his district sits next to urban and suburban areas where there are both a lot of Christians and a lot of liberals, all of whom are reading about his statement in the St. Louis press. Akin isn't after their votes, anyway, but the words "hatred" and "God" in the same sentence generally don't play too well, and this whole episode could cost him.