The Ohio Christian Alliance and state Republican Party have demanded an apology from the state attorney general for telling his communications director that some of the bad press the spokesman got was worse than Christ's crucifixion.
The Dayton Daily News obtained reams of e-mails sent and received by Democratic Attorney General Marc Dann at his office. The e-mails were released after a lengthy battle over public records access.
On April 6, Dann wrote to his director of communications, Leo A. Jennings III, about an editorial in the Youngstown, Ohio, newspaper that yielded a series of unflattering online postings about Jennings.
"Jesus had it better on good [sic] Friday," Dann wrote in the e-mail — which was written on the Christian holiday commemorating Christ's crucifixion and death.
Following the Daily News' publication of the exchanges, Ohio Christian Alliance President Chris Long drafted a letter demanding that Dann apologize.
"I think it would benefit all if he was to make a public apology," Long said in an interview. "That a public official would make a bigoted comment about the crucifixion on Good Friday has people outraged and in disbelief."
The Ohio Republican Party has also waded into the fray, backing up the Christian Alliance — a Christian advocacy group that is no longer part of the Christian Coalition — in asking that Dann retract his remarks.
The GOP has also called on Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, a Methodist minister, to condemn the attorney general's statement. Strickland has reportedly refused.
"There are millions of people in this state who we believe took offense to what he said," GOP spokesman John McClelland said of Dann's quip. "He's a public official. I don't care if he's a Republican or a Democrat. He owes the people of Ohio an apology."
A spokesman from Dann's office, Ted Hart, said the attorney general and Jennings had no further comment beyond what Jennings said in a reply letter sent to the Christian Alliance's Long.
"I would note that as a Christian and the recipient of this personal communication, I did not find it offensive in any way because I understood that the remark is in no way reflective of the Attorney General's philosophy or principles," Jennings wrote.
He said that he and Dann have been friends for more than 20 years and that the attorney general, who is Jewish, doesn't discriminate against people of any religion.
"Marc cherishes his own faith and is deeply respectful, considerate and tolerant of the religious beliefs held by others," wrote Jennings.
"He is absolutely committed to upholding the religious freedoms guaranteed by both the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions and he would zealously oppose any attempt made by anyone to impinge upon those freedoms."
That response didn't satisfy Long, who said the flippant Good Friday comment has upset countless Catholics and Protestants alike — and he wants more from Dann.
"The attorney general has not communicated with us by way of an apology or an explanation," he said. "We asked for both an apology and a guarantee that people of faith will not be subject to bigotry from him in the future. We did get the guarantee [in a report in the Ohio Plain Dealer]. That shows some contrition to us on his part."
Long said his opinion wouldn't change if Dann's explanation was that he was kidding.
"If it was a joke, it was in poor taste, and we certainly don't find Good Friday to be a joke," said Long. "His own personal faith is that he's Jewish, so you would think he'd be sensitive to other faiths."
He said his group had not been offended by the attorney general in the past, which made him all the more "shocked and appalled" about this as well as the other e-mails that came to light in the Dayton Daily News article.
McClelland, on the other hand, said Mann's style is well known among those he's campaigned against and worked with.
"He has a track record of saying inappropriate things, whether that is making light of Good Friday, using other vulgar terms to describe events or telling people to go and do certain things," said the GOP communications director. "He is one of the most arrogant people you will ever meet. It's pretty much par for the course."
Dann has been in office since January.