BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Speculation that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is on Republican Mitt Romney's short list of potential vice presidential candidates is drawing new scrutiny to his decades-old writing about an exorcist-type act he claims to have watched as a college student.
Political analysts say Romney, who rarely mentions his own Mormon faith in public, might be hesitant to pick Jindal as a running mate because of worries the Louisiana governor's detailed description of the spiritual experience could drum up uncomfortable religious conversation.
Jindal wrote about the "physical dimensions of spiritual warfare" in a 1994 article for New Oxford Review, a Roman Catholic magazine, in which he describes watching a prayer group intervention with a friend when he attended Brown University.
"Kneeling on the ground, my friends were chanting, 'Satan, I command you to leave this woman.' Others exhorted all 'demons to leave in the name of Christ,'" Jindal wrote.
He described a student "brandishing a crucifix" and his friend responding to biblical passages with "curses and profanities" in an event that ended with his friend feeling "purified." He doesn't use the word exorcism to describe the event in the university classroom, and he talks of his confusion about what he witnessed. He ends the writing by describing his belief in "the reality of spirits, angels and other related phenomena that I can neither touch nor see."
Jindal has not talked publicly about the details of the story. When asked if the governor still believes he witnessed an exorcism or has any concerns about the article's impact on his chances of becoming the vice presidential nominee, a Jindal spokeswoman didn't answer the questions directly.
Instead, she released a statement from Jindal saying, "I wrote a lot of stuff in high school and college. While other kids were out partying, I was reading and writing. I'm sure some of that stuff is goofy. I just hope they don't review my grade school work."
The lengthy article has gotten little attention in the 41-year-old governor's political campaigns in Louisiana over the last decade, besides minor mentions in profiles discussing his conversion to Catholicism as a teenager after being raised a Hindu by Indian immigrant parents. Opponents have rarely touched on the subject publicly in the conservative state where many residents are religious.
But the description of a spiritual experience familiar to many only through Hollywood movies and often considered bizarre is grabbing stronger attention as Jindal's prominence on the national political scene has risen.
Political writers tracking the reported vice-presidential contenders regularly list the 'exorcism' story as a strike against Jindal's chances for being selected, and the story Jindal wrote nearly 20 years ago has inspired more than one YouTube video.
Edward Chervenak, a political science professor with the University of New Orleans, said Jindal may have received little notice for the story in Louisiana because the governor has stressed his Christianity here, "making him attractive to the values voters and born-again Christians in this Bible belt state."
"Now that he's a potential running mate for Romney, he's being vetted much more carefully by political bloggers and national media and is being confronted by those who take a more secular view to life and have misgivings about such practices as exorcism," Chervenak said.
Jindal wouldn't be the first candidate dogged by odd youthful statements. In 2010, then-Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell spent considerable time explaining old TV footage in which she spoke of dabbling in witchcraft as a teenager. She later aired a widely ridiculed ad in which she declared, "I'm not a witch."
Republican leaders are particularly wary of surprises after 2008, when then-presidential nominee John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate led to months of media scrutiny of the little-known Alaska governor.
Longtime Democratic political operative Bob Mann, who worked as communications director for former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, believes Jindal's article destroys the governor's chances for becoming Romney's vice presidential pick.
Mann, now a mass communications professor at LSU and political blogger, said Romney's been reluctant to talk about his Mormon beliefs, a faith that many Americans view as very different from their own religious beliefs. With Romney's cautious approach to discussing religion, Mann said the former Massachusetts governor wouldn't want renewed focus on the subject.
"There's not a big leap from — now, this is my characterization — the strange quirky practices of the Catholic faith to the strange quirky practices of the Mormon faith," Mann said.
Others disagree that Jindal's religious writings are a hefty political liability.
In response to a blog post that Mann wrote on the subject, a writer for the conservative National Review described the 1990s-era article as expected to generate attention if Jindal were tapped as Romney's running mate, but said it wouldn't overshadow his accomplishments in office.