to the editor

Religious intolerance

To the Editor:

On a cold evening in January, 1991, I attended an ecumenical service at First Baptist Church in Marion. I went to the community service with several of my fellow members of Marion Peacemakers, an advocacy group for world peace that had been meeting regularly for several years.

The purpose of the service that evening was to gather as a community at the start of our country’s invasion of Kuwait and Iraq that would be known as Operation Desert Storm, and later as the first Iraq War. As expected, the first few ministers at the pulpit, representing Marion’s many churches, wished and prayed the safe return of our troops from harm’s way and a quick and successful end to the conflict.

Then the pastor of Good News Christian Fellowship came to the pulpit and with arm thrust high in the air, and bellowed “Allah is a false god.” For me and my companions the tenor of the service had suddenly changed.

We had come to the service during a time of national crisis and war expecting some appeal to the chance for peace and safety for the combatants and the innocent that always suffer as a consequence of war. Instead we were witness to an exercise in religious demagoguery. My friends and I left the service immediately in shock and dismay but chalked it up as the narrow view of an overly zealous religious bigot.

Fast forward 26 years, and while we are still at war in the Middle East, newly installed President Donald Trump issues an immediate travel ban on seven Muslim countries.

This action is one of a long list of campaign promises made by the new president to his supporters. In the campaign there was language referring to a “Muslim ban” and a “Muslim registry” and a direct personal attack by candidate Trump on an immigrant Muslim Iraqi couple who had lost their son in combat in Iraq.

Past statements by President Trump’s closest advisers, General Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon, reveal deep prejudice and condemnation of the Muslim faith, so I will not be surprised when the “Muslim Registry” is announced.

Marion County voters in last November’s election cast a total of 5,265 votes in the presidential race, of which 3,928 votes or 72% went to Donald Trump. I am curious to know how many of those who voted for President Trump did so on the basis of a promised “Muslim ban” and how they can square that with the Constitutional right to freedom of religion?

My personal plan to a “Muslim Registry” is to join with my Muslim brothers and sisters and register as a Muslim using as an example King Christian X of Denmark, when in World War II he resisted the German occupiers’ call to register Danish Jews. 

Harry E. Bennett
Madison, Wisconsin

Last modified Feb. 9, 2017

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