The Maine Council of Churches on Saturday decried Gov. Paul LePage’s recent comments on race and his obscenity-laced voice mail message to a state lawmaker as disgraceful – and invited him to sign a pledge to engage in civil discourse.

The group, which represents nine denominations and 550 congregations, said it was “dismayed” by LePage’s statement on race, racial profiling, his “highly offensive language” in the voice mail and his “mention … of a wish to shoot” Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook.

LePage said Wednesday night that he had a binder full of stories about the arrests of drug traffickers in Maine, and “90-plus-percent” of the suspects were black or Hispanics. After he heard, incorrectly, that Gattine called him a racist for that remark, the governor left a voice mail for the lawmaker filled with profanities, warning him, “I’m after you.”

In an interview Thursday, LePage said he wanted to shoot Gattine “right between his eyes,” and then, in a press conference Friday, the governor effectively endorsed racial profiling, likening black and Hispanic drug dealers to “the enemy.”

“The type of vitriolic personal attack and disrespect in the governor’s voice mail message and interview flagrantly violated the principle of maintaining respectful civility when speaking to or about those with whom one disagrees,” the Maine Council of Churches said in a statement released Saturday. “The words he chose to use in the message and interview were unspeakable – and yet, he spoke them, disgracing the office of governor and dishonoring our state in the eyes of the nation.”

LePage also “violates fundamental principles of civil discourse” by “framing the devastating drug trafficking and addiction problem our state faces as being fundamentally about race when it simply is not, and by promoting racial profiling,” the statement said.


The Maine Council of Churches went on to invite LePage to sign its Civil Discourse Covenant, an agreement it is circulating to all candidates for statewide office to treat one another with respect, avoid personal attacks and untrue statements, and “value honesty, truth and civility” while working toward solutions to Maine’s problems.

Although LePage is not a candidate this year, the Maine Council of Churches said he could sign the covenant “as a sign he intends to change his behavior so as to act in a manner befitting the office of governor of our great state.”

Emails seeking comment from the Maine Council of Churches and LePage were not responded to Saturday night.

The Maine Council of Churches represents the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Swedenborgian, Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ denominations.

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