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February 2, 2011 The Hon orable Allen 1708 Lo n gworth Ho use Office B
February 2, 2011 The Hon orable Allen 1708 Lo n gworth Ho use Office B
February 2, 2011 The Hon orable Allen 1708 Lo n gworth Ho use Office B
February 2, 2011 The Hon orable Allen 1708 Lo n gworth Ho use Office B

February 2, 2011

The Hon orable Allen

1708 Lo ngworth Ho use Office B uilding Washing ton, D.C. 20 515

West

Dear Re presentative West,

As leade rs of nationa l Jewish, C hristian and interfaith or ganizations that celebra te religious

freedom and diversit y, we write to you today with deep Islam an d its adheren ts.

concern ove r your recen t criticisms of

In a rece nt interview with the “S halom Show ,” you unde rscored that your missio n is to repre sent and upho ld the value s of your co nstituents; t his is an unq uestionably noble goal. However, y our subseque nt statemen t that Repre sentative Ke ith Ellison, one of your colleagues i n the House of Represen tatives, is th e “antithesi s of the prin ciples on w hich this cou ntry was es tablished” because he is Muslim , shows a f rightening la ck of under standing for these value s. Regardles s of

the speci fic “principl es” you inte nded to refe rence, it is a n indisputa ble fact that one of those principle s is religiou s freedom fo r all, memo rialized in t he United St ates Constit ution—

includin

remarks disrespect n ot only your Muslim col leagues in t he Congress , but also al l of your constitue nts of the M uslim faith. This is neit her appropri ate, nor true to the Ame rican values that you refer ence.

, of course, Article VI’ s prohibition on any reli gious test fo r public offi ce. Your

Regretta bly, this is j

Islam. A t a town hall meeting du ring your ca mpaign, yo u characteri zed Islam as America’s enemy a nd asserted, “Islam is a t otalitarian, t heocratic p olitical ideol ogy; it is no t a religion. ”

Such unt rue and infl ammatory re marks inten sify an unse ttling trend of anti-Mus lim rhetoric and fear in o ur country. T hey are als o likely to c onfuse your constituents as to the di fferences between radical, Isla mic extremi sts and non- violent adhe rents to Isla m. Many pe aceable

Muslims live in your district and two serve a longside yo u in the Hou se of Repre sentatives. A

time whe n Islamoph obia is on th e rise, it is t he responsib ility of our elected offic ials to prom ote dialogue , understand ing and civi lity in the p ublic forum.

st the latest example of your tenden cy to offer i ntemperate comments a bout

At a

In the “S halom Show ” interview , you spoke of the need for our natio on’s children

about ou r Constitutio n and our h istory; this i s a goal we of course sh are and a pu rsuit in whi ch

we hope you will par ticipate as

Founder s’ commitm ent to the ve nerable relig ious freedo ms that for

protected

have had in forming our nation, i ncluding th e oft-attacke d American Muslim co mmunity wh ose members have been part of our n ation since its inception .

to be educ ated

well. It is ess ential that A merica’s ch ildren learn of our

more than 2 00 years hav e

all persons of faith and of no faith. Equally im portant is th e role that d iverse peopl es

Althoug

from dis cussing your own faith, we urge you not to use t he prestige of your posi tion in the U .S. House of Representa tives to pros elytize for o ne religion or demoniz e another. R ather, we ho pe that you will seek op portunities t o uphold th e religious f reedom of a ll of your co lleagues an d

constitue nts, includi ng Muslims, to believe i n or to rejec t any religio us faith, as t hey choose. This

freedom is an integra l part of Am erican dem ocracy and

Constitu tion. We als o hope that you will iss ue an apolo gy, not only to Represen tative Elliso n, but to th e Muslim cit izens of you r district.

your lauda ble decision to offer you rself for pu blic service in no way d isqualifies y ou

promised by the First A mendment t o our

Thank y ou for your c onsideratio n.

Sincerel

,
,

Rev. We lton Gaddy Presiden t, Interfaith Alliance

, Rev. We l ton Gaddy Presiden t , Interfaith A lliance Rabbi Ja ck Moline

Rabbi Ja ck Moline Director of Public Po licy, The R abbinical As sembly

Director of Public P o licy, The R a bbinical A s sembly Rabbi D a

Rabbi D avid Saperst ein Director and Counse l, Religious Action Cen ter of Refor m Judaism

The Rev . J. Brent W alker
The Rev . J. Brent W alker

Executiv e Director,

Baptist Joint Committee for Religio us Liberty