A staffer in Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign is under fire for an email suggesting a female commander-in-chief could be at odds with the Bible’s teachings.

The Des Moines Register last week reported that Santorum’s Iowa coalitions director, Jamie Johnson, sent an email over the summer asking, ‘Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?”

Michele Bachmann, a social conservative who campaigned heavily in Iowa, competed with Santorum over the conservative evangelical vote in the Iowa caucuses. She dropped out of the race after a dismal finish in the Iowa race.

This weekend Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s faith outreach coordinator, said the email was proof that Santorum had engaged in a “sexist strategy” to sabotage Bachmann. He demanded an apology from Santorum and called for Johnson’s firing.

The recent spat brings the issue of sexism in conservative politics to the fore again. When Bachmann ended her campaign, political observers wondered whether conservative perceptions of women and Bachmann’s own alignment with the Christian right and disavowal of feminism had been her undoing.