South Carolina County Wants Republican Candidates to Sign Purity Pledge

Republican leaders in Laurens County, S.C., want candidates to sign 28-point pledge before they can run for office.Republican leaders in Laurens County, S.C., want candidates to sign 28-point pledge before they can run for of …If you're a Republican who wants to run for office in Laurens County, South Carolina, it's not enough to want to uphold the party's platform. Thanks to a resolution adopted last week, potential GOP candidates will have to submit to an interview and sign a pledge promising, among other things, that they did not have premarital sex and will not watch porn before party officials will decide whether they can be on the ballot.

The political purity pledge also requires candidates to disclose whether they've cheated on their spouse. Having done so is a deal-breaker.

"It is essential to try to protect the party's reputation," party chairman Bobby Smith told the Clinton Chronicle. "The party has been pushing for closed primaries. People feel the platform has not been adhered to. We want candidates to believe in and uphold the party's platform."

The Lauren County Republican Party -- whose Facebook slogan is "Not more power to the government. Not more power to the people. More liberty to the individual!" -- voted on the resolution after asking members of the public to leave an open meeting of its executive committee on February 28. When they re-opened the meeting, they refused to answer questions and quickly adjourned, the Chronicle reported.

The party's platform, according to the 28-point pledge, includes having "a commitment to Peace Through Strength in Foreign Policy," upholding the right to have "all kinds of guns," and having "a high regard for United States sovereignty." But it also makes the personal political, requiring candidates to promise to favor and practice abstinence before marriage, to be faithful to their spouses, and to promise to never look at pornography.

Also on the list: You can't support any government action that would allow for gay marriage or civil unions of people of the same sex, you must have "a compassionate and moral approach to Teen Pregnancy," and you must endorse the idea of a balanced state and federal budget, "whatever it takes," even if your responsibility ends at the county level.

If candidates breaks any part of the pledge, they must agree that the local party will hold them accountable.

South Carolina Democratic political consultant Lachlan McIntosh told The Huffington Post that "he finds it interesting a party so preoccupied with buzzwords like 'freedom' seem to oppose it on a regular basis." He was more blunt about it on Twitter, where he wrote: "Laurens County GOP wants to make sure thier candidates are all a bunch of whack jobs."

But party members insist that disqualifyng candidates who fulfill state requirements but don't live up to the committee's moral standards is a matter of the party's Constitutional right to freedom of political association and free speech.

Chad Connelly, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, blamed Democrats for the the GOP's need to pass the measure, which is called "A Resolution of The Laurens County Republican Party regarding The Qualifications of Candidates for the Primary Ballot."

"We have Democrats running as Republicans because it is the only way they can get elected." he told the Clinton Chronicle. "And then we wonder, why didn't they vote the way we thought they were going to vote. The pressure is on for them to say what they are."

A candidate who was at the public GOP executive committee meeting when the measure was approved said that a subcommittee of three people would interview candidates and recommend to the party whether the candidate will be allowed to run for office -- a move that would effectively block the public from voting for candidates other than those pre-approved by the committee.

"I think the majority of the Republican voters in Laurens County should decide who will represent them in the general election," the candidate, who was not identified, told The Clinton Chronicle.

On Monday, party chairman Bobby Smith sent out a statement saying that, "due to various legal issues," his executive committee cannot stop a candidate from filing to run for public office if he or she "meets the qualifications established by the state."

"The Laurens County Republican Party reserves the right to vet its candidates and will encourage all candidates to uphold the principles of the party's platform as well as petition candidates to sign a pledge to do so," he said in the statement. "However, no candidate will be denied access to the Republican Party primary ballot for refusing to sign the pledge."

Last year, Laurens County Sheriff Ricky Chastain, a Republican, admitted that he had had an affair with his coworker, who claimed that he had forced her out of her job because she refused to have an abortion. The local Republican party called for his resignation.

"The fact that there was an affair, I understand that's a private matter," party chairman Bobby Smith told reporters at the time. "But it became public when he took the lady to North Carolina in a public vehicle to have an abortion."

The new pledge could potentially help local party leaders keep Chastain off the ballot for the election later this year.

"You can't keep them from filing, legally," Connelly told the Clinton Chronicle. "But we should be able to ask, 'What do you believe in, and why.'"

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