(CNSNews.com) - As governor of Arkansas, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee delayed a disaster relief bill for a week because he objected to the legislation's characterization of tornadoes and floods as "acts of God."
The bill barred Arkansas insurance companies from denying coverage to victims of "acts of God," the legal term for natural disasters. It was introduced after a series of tornadoes ravaged the state in early March 1997, killing 25 and injuring more than 400.
Huckabee refused to sign the bill, complaining that referring to catastrophic storms as "acts of God" was incompatible with his personal faith.
"While I realize that to some this is a minor issue, it is a matter of deep conscience with me to attribute in law a destructive and deadly force as being an 'act of God , '" he said at the time.
Rather than exercise his veto, the governor sent the bill back to the state legislature, suggesting that they change "acts of God" to "natural disasters." The Arkansas House of Representatives disagreed and voted 93-0 to pass the bill again with its original language.
But Huckabee stood firm even when the legislature added the phrase "or natural disasters" after "acts of God." After a week of political and theological debate, the Arkansas House finally relented and struck the phrase "acts of God" from the bill.
Huckabee said his opposition to the seemingly trivial language was rooted in his deep religious convictions.
"I refuse to walk through tornado damage and to say that what destroyed it was God and what built it back was only human beings," he said. "I saw God protect a lot of people, save a lot of people. That's an act of God, too."
The phrase "acts of God" is standard legal terminology for natural disasters and other destructive events for which no party can be blamed.
The incident earned Huckabee the wrath of many of the state's other politicians. Democratic state Rep. Shane Broadway called it "the silliest thing I've ever heard in my life." The bill's sponsors, state Sen. Wayne Dowd and state Rep. Dennis R. Young, were reportedly irked.
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, is often accused by critics of injecting an unhealthy dose of religion into his politics. He cites God frequently in his speeches and has said he would like to "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards."
The Huckabee campaign did not respond by press time for comment on this topic.