SYRACUSE, N.Y. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the sharpest attack yet against her Senate rival, yesterday accused Rudolph W. Giuliani of “injecting religion into this race.”
At issue was an eight-page fund-raising letter sent to people identified by Mr. Giuliani as politically active conservatives and signed by the Republican New York City mayor.
The letter, a copy of which was distributed by the Clinton campaign, was first noted by the Village Voice newspaper.
“Hillary Clinton further revealed her hostility towards America’s religious traditions when she attacked Gov. George W. Bush’s idea that we should look toward America’s faith-based charities more than government programs to address social problems,” the letter said.
Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said the first lady had never attacked Mr. Bush’s proposal and supports using faith-based charities to carry out social programs if it is done in a constitutional manner.
And the first lady, who was raised in a devout Methodist family, said she was outraged that Mr. Giuliani “would inject religion into this campaign in any form whatsoever.”
“As a person of faith, I am appalled that he would make false statements about me and my respect for religion in order to raise money for his campaign,” the first lady told reporters at a Rochester hotel, a message she later repeated to more than 1,500 people at Syracuse University.
During a November speech at the New York Theological Seminary in Manhattan, she thanked ministers for providing services to the homeless and others in need. Later, in response to a question from a minister, she stated: “I believe in faith-based institutions providing services.”
At a City Hall news conference yesterday, the mayor said, “I stand by everything I said in the letter.” He said he would “be more than happy to have everyone in the state read that letter.”
The mayor, laughing and noting the letter had been sent out in October, maintained “it’s the Clinton campaign that injected it into the race… . The reality is nobody attacked her.”
Mr. Giuliani’s letter also complained about “liberal judges” who oppose posting the Ten Commandments in public schools. The mayor who was educated in Catholic schools and who was once a First Amendment lawyer said yesterday he supports posting the Ten Commandments but added that it should not be required.
The letter also attacked Mrs. Clinton for her complaints when Mr. Giuliani sought to cut off city funding last year for the Brooklyn Museum of Art because of its display of a painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung.
“In the minds of left-wing activists like Hillary Clinton, I guess it’s OK to use taxpayer funds to subsidize religious exposition as long as it involves the desecration of religious symbols,” the letter said.
Mrs. Clinton noted yesterday that she had said “I was personally offended by that exhibit. I said it many, many times.”
Mrs. Clinton also used her speech at Syracuse to call for a program to recruit teachers across the country. She said she would introduce legislation to provide college scholarships worth $5,000 to $10,000 a year to 60,000 students who agree to teach for four years in high-need schools.