Jack Conway pushed a debate in Kentucky about religious faith squarely into the US Senate race this weekend, and the Rand Paul campaign cried foul in a testy face-to-face meeting.

In the ad above, Conway uses a series of stories about Paul’s participation in a secret society at Baylor University, which mocked religion and behaved in somewhat subversive ways. Conway connects the strange group, called the NoZe Brotherhood, to Paul’s support for ending faith-based initiatives and charitable deductions for religious entities.

Paul’s campaign spokesman called the ad “shameful and despicable,” and Paul himself confronted Conway at a scheduled debate on Sunday.

“He’s descended into the gutter,” Paul, who referred to himself as a “pro-life Christian” said. “Jack, you should be ashamed of yourself. Have you no decency? Have you no shame?” [...]

“Values matter,” Conway said. “Why did he freely join a group known for mocking or making fun of people of faith? And secondly, when is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol called Aqua Buddha?”

Paul never once answered those two questions, and attacked Conway throughout for, it seemed, having the audacity to ask them.

“You know how we know when you’re lying?” Paul said to Conway. “Your lips are moving. You’re accusing me of crimes. Do you know nothing about the process? You’re going to stand there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source? How ridiculous are you? You embarrass this race.”

Clearly Paul has more of a problem with the dredging up of his Baylor-era past than the associated accusation about faith-based initiatives and charities. I understand that this is Kentucky we’re talking about, but that just seems like a weak connection to make, and furthermore there’s very little justification for such giveaways to groups who already get tax-exempt status.

I think Conway’s on safer ground when calling out Paul for his support for a $2,000 deductible in Medicare, or when he leads an effort of over 200 candidates against cuts to Social Security benefits. This Hail Mary attack has certainly pulled Rand Paul off of his script, and shows the Conway campaign willing to use anything in the fight. I could also see it carrying a potential backlash, however.

UPDATE: Here’s a much stronger exchange from Conway, hammering Paul for his retrograde views. By the way, he’s used all these issues in advertising.