A sermon by conservative pastor and U.S. Senate candidate Det Bowers blaming wives for divorce has drawn a strong condemnation from Nancy Mace, the only female in the GOP field.

"These kinds of comments are out-of-step and distract from the important debate surrounding this U.S. Senate race," Mace said Friday. "I strongly disagree with them."

An audio recording of one of Bowers' sermons includes phrasing that it is "abominable idolatry" when wives love their children more.

He went on to say that in the "vast preponderance" of instances where men become involved in adulterous relationships, wives bear the brunt of the blame because of emotional priorities.

"The last thing we need is another Todd Akin-type candidate representing the GOP in a U.S. Senate race," Mace said in an e-mail. "We need to replace Lindsey Graham, but not with somebody incapable of winning this race in the general election."

Mace was referring to Missouri U.S. Senate hopeful Todd Akin, a religious conservative whose GOP candidacy imploded in 2012 when he said "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. The comment was widely criticized, drawing national attention.

"With Democrats waging a war on women, the last thing we need is another Republican punching bag who has foot in mouth disease," added Mace, the first female to graduate from The Citadel's Corps of Cadets.

The rebuke comes a day after the website Politico published the recording of a sermon Bowers delivered several years ago that placed most of the responsibility for divorce on women, including blaming them for loving their children more than their husbands.

Bowers, of Columbia, is one of six candidates opposing Graham in the June 10 GOP primary.

The audio recording includes these passages:

"Do you hear me ladies? It is an abominable idolatry to love your children more than you love your husband, and it will ruin your marriage. And yet you blame it on him because he ran off with some other woman! He did run off with some other woman, and you packed his bags. All of his emotional bags, you packed for him. Is that true in every case? No, but it's true in the vast preponderance of them.

"You just ran him off. You paid more attention to your children than you did to him," he said. "'Oh, he doesn't need me?' He needs you more than they do. He chose you, they didn't. An abominable idolatry."

Bowers' campaign said he was unavailable Friday for comment. He issued a statement saying his intent was to preserve marriage.

"I wholeheartedly believe family is one of the cornerstones of our nation," his statement read. "As a pastor, steering my parishioners away from the destruction of the sacred union between husband and wife, mother and father, is one of my most important responsibilities - and a duty I will never shy away from," he continued.

"In this instance, I simply shared with the congregation the information I received from the couples I counseled that were contemplating divorce."

Bowers delivered the comments at the Christ Church of the Carolinas in Columbia, where he served as a non-denominational Christian pastor from August 2000 to May 2012, The date of the sermon is in dispute. Bowers' side said it came from 2001. Politico said the years 2005 or 2011 were also possibilities. He reportedly was sermonizing from the Book of Peter.

Meanwhile, a representative of a leading South Carolina women's advocacy group said the comments were demeaning to both women and men since it put both sexes into oversimplistic and stereotypical roles in the multi-pronged subject of divorce.

"It's absurd," said Amy Brennan, executive director of the Center for Women in Charleston. She called on voters to reject Bowers' candidacy for views she said are out-of-date and out-of-touch.

"When people say things like that out loud, it comes from a place they believe," she said.

Brennan also questioned why Graham and others in the GOP pack stayed silent Friday.

Graham's campaign declined to respond and representatives of the other candidates either declined to comment, couldn't be reached, or said they were not familiar with what Bowers said.

Bowers, 62, was a surprise entry into the campaign in which he is expected to court religious conservatives. Along with tea party Republicans, both groups will make up a significant or vocal portions of the primary turnout.

At the time he filed, though, Republicans were quick to note Bowers' past support for Democrats, including serving as chairman of Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign in 1988 here.

Other GOP candidates on the June 10 ballot are state Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg, Upstate businessman Richard Cash, Orangeburg lawyer Bill Connor and newcomer Benjamin Dunn.

Democrats in the June primary are state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg and Jay Stamper of the Columbia area. Libertarian Victor Kocher is also running.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.