US Senator Scott Brown’s suggestion that he shares with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy a position on religious exemptions for health care providers is “misleading and untrue,’’ said Kennedy’s son, Patrick, who wants Brown to stop citing the elder Kennedy in radio advertisements.
“You are entitled to your own opinions, of course, but I ask that, moving forward, you do not confuse my father’s positions with your own,’’ Kennedy wrote to Brown. “I appreciate the past respect you have expressed for his legacy, but misstating his positions is no way to honor his life’s work.’’
Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat and former eight-term congressman from Rhode Island, complained to Brown in a letter e-mailed yesterday morning and then released publicly.
Kennedy takes issue with Brown’s new radio ad, in which the freshman Republican senator states: “Like Ted Kennedy before me, I support a conscience exemption in health care for Catholics and other people of faith.’’
Kennedy asked that Brown take the ad down.
“I respectfully request that you immediately stop broadcast of radio ad and from citing my father any further,’’ he said.
Brown will not pull the radio ad, his campaign said yesterday afternoon. The senator replied with a short, open letter back to Kennedy, in which he said: “When your father told the Pope in his 2009 letter that he supported a conscience exemption for Catholics in health care, he did not mean to put himself on the opposite side of the church or to suggest that he would force them to accept a situation with which they could not abide.
“And yet, that is exactly the situation we are faced with today - despite a failed attempt at compromise, the church remains opposed to the federal government’s intrusion into the affairs of private conscience,’’ Brown wrote. “I’d like to think your dad would have been working with me to find an accommodation that all sides found satisfactory.’’
Brown’s ad comes amid national debate on federal requirements that employees of religious hospitals and schools have access to fully covered birth control among their medial benefits.
Under a compromise proposed by the White House, the employees will get the coverage directly from their insurance companies, so their employers, such as Roman Catholic organizations, do not have to pay to cover a practice the Church opposes.
Catholic bishops still object to the requirement, and Brown has supported a measure by US Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, that would allow organizations to decline to provide medical coverage of certain practices on moral grounds.
“Providing health care to every American was the work of my father’s life,’’ Patrick Kennedy wrote to Brown. “The Blunt Amendment you are supporting is an attack on that cause.’’
Edward Kennedy died in 2009. Brown won a special election in 2010 to fill the remainder of the late senator’s term. He is being challenged by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor and consumer advocate.Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.