Mary Beth Cahill, Ted Kennedy's former chief of staff, is calling on Scott Brown to abide by the request of the Kennedy family and stop invoking the late Massachusetts senator's name in defending legislation that would allow churches and companies to restrict medical coverage based on their "moral convictions." Cahill made her call in an email to Warren supporters, which was provided to The Huffington Post.
"I was concerned when I heard Scott Brown trying to justify his position by invoking Senator Ted Kennedy's name in op-eds, interviews, speeches and, most recently, a radio ad," writes Cahill. "I had the honor of knowing Senator Kennedy and the privilege of serving as his Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate, and I think it's time for Scott Brown to stop distorting Senator Kennedy's views and his legacy of public service and accomplishment."
Cahill asks supporters to co-sign a letter to Brown, "demanding he respect the Kennedy family's wishes and stop invoking Senator Kennedy's name."
Brown has repeatedly invoked Kennedy's name in recent weeks. "I think it's in line with what Senator Kennedy and I have fought for," Brown said of the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). "I have a history in the state Senate of voting ... to have that conscience objection exemption, to allow them to practice their faith. It's one of the cornerstones of our Constitution, to allow for the religious freedoms."
Brown went on: "I have the same position as Senator Kennedy. And Professor Warren, quite frankly, I'm shocked that she would be so divisive, to pit women against their faith and their church, and also, you know, put an attack on the Catholic Church and other religious organizations."
Ted Kennedy's son Patrick, a popular former congressman, responded to Brown's comments by calling on the senator to stop invoking his father's name, a request Brown quickly and publicly rejected.
The late Sen. Kennedy did in fact express support for a conscience clause as part of President Obama's health care reform effort, stating in a letter to the Pope that he supported "a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field."
But Blunt's legislation, which Brown has endorsed, goes much further, allowing any company, church or organization to deny coverage for any reason, as long as it claims the health service violates its "moral convictions."
Cahill, like Kennedy before her, is a prominent Irish Catholic, born and raised in Massachusetts. "As a Massachusetts native and a friend of Senator Kennedy's, I'm disappointed by Scott Brown's actions and words," she wrote. "Scott Brown isn't just distorting the facts about health care, the cause of Senator Kennedy's life -- he's disrespecting all of us who stood by the Senator to help make his life's work possible."
"This issue of religious freedom has drawn a clear contrast between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown," responded Brown campaign spokesman Colin Reed. "She trusts in the wisdom and authority of the federal government to control the most personal aspects of our lives. Scott Brown wants to protect the rights of individual Americans. Her views are out of step with the Constitution and also represent a departure from Ted Kennedy's support for a conscience exemption for Catholics in health care, as he expressed it in his 2009 letter to the Pope."