Examiner Editorial: Connolly’s Catholic-bashing campaign crosses the line

House Minority Leader John Boehner is urging Democratic leaders to stop a vicious anti-Catholic smear campaign against Republican congressional candidate Keith Fimian, who is challenging Democrat Gerry Connolly for a rare open seat in Virginia’s 11th District.

All 157 Catholics currently serving in the House, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, should join their 25 Catholic colleagues in the Senate to denounce these reprehensible tactics.

Postcards mailed to voters on behalf of Connolly by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee portray the Fairfax County businessman as anti-women because he sits on the board of Legatus, a group of traditional Catholic chief executive officers.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue condemned the scurrilous ads as blatant “Catholic bashing” and demanded that Connolly publicly denounce them. Instead, the Democrat repeated the smears on TV.

Judging by the DCCC ads, the main issue in Northern Virginia isn’t energy independence, the faltering economy, taxes or the war in Iraq. It’s women’s rights. But this is a dangerous line of attack for Connolly, a former seminarian who has some explaining of his own to do.

On May 19, the Fairfax Board chairman voted to extend a $2.2 million lease to the Saudi Islamic Academy, a madrassa known by local law enforcement as “Terror High.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that textbooks used in the school justify the murder of non-Muslims and “do not conform to international human-rights norms.”

During public hearings, Connolly repeatedly characterized any criticism of the Saudi government-run school as “slander.” This supposed champion of women even apologized to the headmaster — who later pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for failing to report suspected sexual abuse of a 5-year-old girl.

Federal Election Commission records may explain Connolly’s kid-glove treatment of a school run by a government with one of the world’s worst records on women’s rights. Employees and political action committees run by two American firms listed as registered agents for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia have funneled tens of thousands of petrodollars to Connolly and the DCCC — which paid for the ads that falsely accuse Fimian of wanting to force women to be more “submissive,” ignoring the Saudis’ appalling record of doing exactly that.

The DCCC has gone over the line this time, and Catholic politicians in both parties should demand an apology.

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