POLITICS
10/15/2012 04:18 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2012

Richard Mourdock Visits Controversial Fundamentalist Church That Uses Paddling

Indiana state treasurer and Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has been trying to soften his hard-right image lately, but that didn't stop him from recently visiting a fundamentalist church with extreme views.

Mourdock beat Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary by shunning bipartisanship and pledging to be an uncompromising conservative in the U.S. Senate. But facing tightening polls (see slideshow below) against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and unease among independents, Mourdock has been singing a much more bipartisan tune lately, even cutting an ad that promised he'll work with everyone.

The visit to the Fairhaven Baptist Church and its academy suggests he intends to continue catering to his base, however.

The Fairhaven school was in the news last year for maintaining a harsh disciplinary environment that features public whipping and humiliation of students. Rev. Roger Voegtlin, who runs the church, had a run-in with the law in the 1970s, but was cleared of all charges. In a CNN feature last year, he said he still prescribes spanking children in a humiliating fashion.

"Yes. It is still done today," Voegtlin told the cable outlet. "And I suppose it is humiliation, but again, humiliation is not the big thing."

The church's controversial practices also got local coverage.

Mourdock's campaign declined to discuss the visit, but posted a couple of pictures on the campaign's Flickr feed.

Voegtlin praised Mourdock and told his congregants, “I believe with all my heart this is the most important election in my lifetime.”

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