The Democrat who’s challenging Republican Congressman Steve King this November says King has “crossed a line” by saying Democrats are akin to Pontius Pilate. King wrote an opinion piece about illegal immigration for a group called “Renewing American Leadership” and Matt Campbell of Manning, the Democrat running against King, says King’s commentary was “highly offensive.”

“Pontius Pilate was the administrator that basically sent Jesus Christ to death on the cross and for a politician to refer to a political party and characterize them as that is just beyond the pale,” Campbell says. “I mean there’s just no place for it in American politics as far as I’m concerned.”

Campbell, who is a Methodist, says he believes God “transcends” politics. “My Christian faith is very important to me. There’s men and women of faith on both sides of the aisle,” Campbell says.  “In my mind, there’s no D or there’s no R behind God.”

King accused Democrats of advancing the idea that the only “Biblically-acceptable immigration policy is open borders.” King also cited Bible passages in his op-ed piece, including one from Deuteronomy which King said showed God is not neutral on the issue of securing the border. Campbell says King is “picking and choosing” from scripture.

“I think he’s pitting neighbor against neighbor and this is just reprehensible what he has said in this article,” Campbell says. 

Campbell says he does not support “blanket amnesty” for those who are living in the U.S. illegally. But Campbell says congress should try to do something constructive, like adopt a bipartisan bill which grants citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who agree to either serve in the military or earn a college degree.

Congressman King is part of a congressional delegation on an international trip and is unavailable for comment.

In his op-ed piece, King wrote Democrats could be characterized as “washing their hands” of the negative economic impact of illegal immigration, just as the Book of Matthew says Pontius Pilate did of his responsibility in Christ’s crucifixion.