Summary:

Ahead of Ohio's May 3 primary, Josh Mandel is visiting churches to woo conservative Christian voters. One pastor described this tactic as "abusive of the faith."

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Although the words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause was intended to separate church from state.

But Josh Mandel, hoping to become a US senator, doesn’t believe in church/state separation and is aggressively wooing evangelical MAGA cultists in a bid to become a US senator.

He’s doing this by using evangelical churches in Ohio as election platforms during his campaign. He is quoted by AOL as saying:

Usually, when someone’s running for U.S. Senate or governor or Congress, they’d go to all the Republican rubber chicken dinners and clam bakes and hog roasts, stuff like that. We’re blowing up the playbook. I’m sidestepping all of the Republican Party groups and, instead, I’m running a campaign through churches.

This is not going down well with some. The Rev. Tim Ahrens, senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Columbus, said Jesus dedicated his life to caring for those who had been forsaken and forgotten:

So to use his name to further divide people is really sick.

Some critics, according to AOL, say they’re more concerned with Mandel’s history of controversial statements. He was briefly kicked off Twitter after running a poll on which “illegals” would commit the most crimes, “Muslim Terrorists” or “Mexican Gangbangers”—and has characterized Black Lives Matter protesters as “thugs.”

The social media site temporarily restricted his account for violating the social media platform’s rules on “hateful conduct.”

Mandel’s campaign website, which features a picture of a cross and an American flag and a pledge to make decisions in Washington with “the Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other,” leaves little doubt that he’s on the extreme right.

Image via YouTube

You’d expect such an approach to be music to the ears of Donald Trump, and that the former president would heartily back him. But last week, Trump officially endorsed J.D. Vance, above, who converted to Catholicism in 2019.

Trump said of the Hillbilly Elegy writer:

“It is time for the entire MAGA movement, the greatest in the history of our Country, to unite behind J.D.’s campaign because, unlike so many other pretenders and wannabes, he will put America First. In other words, J.D. Vance has my Complete and Total Endorsement. He will not let you down. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Trump’s pick has not gone down well with Ohio Republicans. According to Business Insider, dozens of Ohio Republicans wrote to Trump, urging him to change his mind due to Vance’s previous anti-Trump comments.

Despite previously describing himself as a “Never Trump guy,” Vance has now positioned himself as a close ally of the former president.

Writing for CNN, Chris Cillizza said:

On its face, Donald Trump’s endorsement of author J.D. Vance in the Republican Senate primary in Ohio doesn’t make a ton of sense.

He pointed out that Vance’s campaign hasn’t exactly taken off, “and there’s that pesky issue of Vance running down Trump (and Trump voters) in the past.”

Cillizza suggested that the only reason Trump chose Vance, is because of his “celebrity status.”:

Trump is drawn to other famous people. He thinks famous people have an “it” factor that distinguishes them from the normals. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Trump views himself first and foremost as a celebrity. He likes people who are in the club with him. It’s that simple.

So what do we know about Mandel?

AOL points out that he’s the grandson of Holocaust survivors, attended B’nai B’rith Perlman summer camp and was married in Israel. His children are enrolled at a modern orthodox Jewish day school where they study Torah half the day.

Mandel describes himself as a “proud Jew” and dismisses those, including some GOP primary rivals, who have portrayed him as insincere in his emphasis of conservative Christian values.

Mandel sees no contradiction between his faith and his campaign approach and e explains that, when it comes to his support for Israel, he often has more in common with evangelical Christians than he does with liberal Jews.

From my perspective, you know for me, I’m a proud American, I’m a proud Marine Corps vet and I’m a proud Jew. And when I look at the U.S.-Israel relationship, I think liberal Jews in America should be ashamed of themselves for supporting anti-Israel groups like J Street. And I think the best friends of the U.S.-Israel relationship in America are evangelical Christians.

Mandel really does believe that “there is no separation between church and state,” and supports policies such as prayer in public schools and permitting private businesses to turn away customers based on their religious beliefs.

You know, people want faith instilled in the classroom, in the workplace, in all aspects of society.

Fred Zeidman, a longtime GOP donor and Mandel supporter noted that evangelicals are among the party’s most consistent voters.

If you want to win an election, you’ve got to go where the voters are. So I think it’s essential for him, if he wants to win, that he lets the faith-based community know that he thinks like they do.

Stephanie A. Martin, a professor of communications at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Mandel’s embrace of Christianity may serve to neutralize worries among Republicans about his Jewishness in a country where antisemitism is still a potent force.

Some of Mandel’s longtime Jewish friends and supporters described feeling out of place when they first attended his events. But they said they came to see the evangelicals as a natural base of support for Mandel, given their shared support for Israel, even if his efforts may make others in the Jewish community feel uncomfortable.

Veteran journalist and free speech activist Barry Duke was, for 24 years, editor of The Freethinker magazine, the second oldest continually active freethought publication in the world, established by G.W....