Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, a former Baptist pastor, once delivered a sermon questioning whether a career was the "healthiest pursuit" for women.
The 2013 sermon was discovered by a Democratic-linked Super PAC, American Bridge, and first reported Thursday by ABC News.
In the sermon, Harris, then pastor of Charlotte's First Baptist Church, spoke about "God's plan for biblical womanhood" and barriers to it.
"The first one . . . is that we’ve had in our own culture a new supreme pursuit," he said. "There is a new supreme pursuit from the traditional pursuit of being a wife or a mother . . . .
"In our culture today, girls are taught from grade school . . . that what is most honorable in life is a career, and their ultimate goal in life is simply to be able to grow up and be independent of anyone or anything," he said.
"But nobody has seemed to ask the question that I think is critically important to ask: Is that a healthy pursuit for society? Is that the healthiest pursuit for our homes? . . . Is that the healthiest pursuit for the sexes in our generation?"
Harris is running in the 9th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Bladen County. He defeated incumbent Robert Pittenger in May's Republican primary and now faces Democrat Dan McCready.
In a statement, McCready said the sermon reflects someone "out of step."
"As a Christian, I believe that we are all created in God's image," he said. "That means men and women are equally valuable and equally capable and should be treated as such in their homes, careers, and in society. Mr. Harris' comments suggest otherwise. This is just another example of how out of step Mr. Harris is — not just with this district but with this century."
But Harris adviser Andy Yates said the 2013 remarks came in a sermon for Mother's Day.
"Almost to a person every mom in the 9th District . . . would agree that there is no higher calling than being a mother and a wife . . . or a husband and a father," Yates said.
Yates said the release by American Bridge reflects "a bigger war on people of faith, on religious freedom and people who believe in Christian values."
"That's sad that we've come to that point that we’re going to attack a pastor for preaching the Word of God," he said.
Yates said critics took Harris' comments out of context. Harris predicted that would happen in the 2013 sermon.
"There’s no doubt I’m going to be misquoted, no doubt that I’m going to be taken out of context . . . no doubt that people are going to twist what I’ve said," he said in the sermon. "But I want to make this clear . . . I’m not talking about that this means you're to be barefoot and pregnant. This doesn't mean that you can't be a woman going to the office, can’t be a woman carrying a briefcase, doesn’t mean you can’t be a woman sitting at an executive board table.
"But what it does mean (is) that . . . you must understand your core calling."
Harris' sermon came a year after he helped lead the successful 2012 push for what was known as Amendment One, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It was later nullified when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.