Op-Ed: Faith in the Public Arena; A Response to Al Cross

Op-Ed by Republican Strategist David Harris

I am writing a response to Al Cross’s column in part regarding his statement regarding Ambassador Craft’s campaign, “Christian imagery in mailers that make it seem like she’s running for Sunday-school superintendent, not governor. What does evangelist Franklin Graham know about who should be our governor?”

Full disclosure: I have been fortunate to have gotten to know and become friends with many of the candidates for Governor including Ambassador Craft, and have chosen to publicly endorse Commissioner Ryan Quarles for Governor because he has been my good friend for over 25 years, groomsman in my wedding, he has deep grassroots support of over 240 endorsements by local and state elected officials, strong legislative and executive branch executive experience to serve as Kentucky’s next Governor.

I grew up in a family that valued public service, my Dad served 20 years in the United States Air Force and 26 years in the state legislature, and I have chosen the public arena for my career. I’ve gotten to meet and know hundreds of local, state, and federal officials and candidates who are good, decent, hard working people who love their family, their community, and state and have a deep desire to work towards “a more perfect union”.

When I first meet a candidate or official, I want to know who they are, what they believe, why they are running, and what they hope to accomplish. Everyone has guiding philosophy, principles, ideals that they live by. For many people who run for office, their faith is why they do what they do, and they have deeply seated belief in the founding principles of this nation enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s Why and the Constitution is our How. We are exercising the First Amendment in this space of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Ambassador Craft saying that “campaign is one built on faith” is not a religious test, it is a statement of her Why, who she is as a person, how her faith is foundational and everything else flows from that.

In 2021, Ambassador Craft and Joe Craft chaired the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign. Salvation Army provides support and services including housing, disaster relief, youth programming, food bank, clothing shelter, etc. For those that don’t know, they are first and foremost an evangelical ministry, motivated by the love of God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. Their Faith is their Why, and How is through ministry to others.

Further Mr. Cross says “Faith can be a great help in secular matters, but it’s not the sole source of strength”. For many people their faith was their source of strength and sustained them during the COVID pandemic as they dealt with the mental, physical, and financial hardships.

Mr. Cross says Cameron has no shortage of religion in his ads, as he attacks Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear for closing churches at the start of the pandemic. Governor Beshear’s actions of sending State Police to churches writing down license plates of parishioners on Easter Sunday, was clear violation of the first amendment “prohibiting the free exercise and the right of people to peaceably assemble” and federal judges rightly put a stop to his unlawful actions.

Finally, “What does evangelist Franklin Graham know about who should be our governor?” Mr. Cross wants to separate the sacred and the secular. Franklin Graham doesn’t need me to defend him, but for education Franklin Graham is President and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, non denominational, evangelical Christian organization that has a worldwide presence of meeting the needs of victims of war, poverty, family, disease, and natural disasters. Locally, they have helped build homes for victims of the western Kentucky tornados. They have an annual budget of over $700 million dollars, and employ over 750 people. In addition to being an evangelist, he obviously has significant executive leadership experience, and through that work he met Ambassador Craft, got to know her, and chose to endorse her campaign for Governor.

What does a preacher know about who should be our governor? Mr. Cross must have forgotten that in addition to being a physician, former State Representative, Congressman, Governor Ernie Fletcher was a Baptist lay minister. Also, Mr. Cross diminishes the voices of current State Representatives and ministers Ryan Dotson, Chris Fugate, and David Hale on who they think should be Kentucky’s next Governor.

Does Mr. Cross’ perspective on Franklin Graham extend to St. Stephen Baptist Church’s Senior Pastor Dr. Kevin Cosby who in 2016 Democratic Primary endorsed Hillary Clinton for President? St. Stephen Baptist Church is the largest African American Church in Kentucky, as well as the largest private Black employer in the state. Dr. Cosby also serves as President of Simmons College of Kentucky. Under his leadership, the college earned national accreditation from the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Historically Black College & University. Additionally, Dr. Cosby is published author of six books.

There are many people in elected office who have deep personal convictions grounded in their respective faiths and led them to public service, which is to be celebrated and encouraged, not diminished or discarded. 

David Harris is Campaign Strategist at Winning Republican Strategies. He has more than a decade of experience as a government relations and public affairs professional in lobbying, non-profit advocacy, state government, and political campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels. David graduated from University of Kentucky with a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Economics and a minor in Business Administration. He serves on the board of Dreams with Wings in Louisville, Kentucky, a nonprofit that serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. He grew up on a family farm in Oldham County, Kentucky, and currently resides in Lexington.