The election of a Muslim congressman by Minnesota voters was not "envisioned by the Founding Fathers," Idaho Congressman Bill Sali said this week.
But that doesn't mean Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison doesn't have every right to serve in Washington, D.C., Sali said.
He told the Statesman Friday that his comments quoted on a conservative Web site should not have given the impression that Ellison did not belong in Congress.
"He got elected the same way I did," Sali said. "People certainly have the right to elect anyone they want."
But Sali said he hopes the country's leaders continue to follow Christian principles.
In an interview posted online this week by the Christian news outlet American Family News Network, Sali said: "We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes - and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The principles that this country was built on, that have made it great over these centuries were Christian principles derived from Scriptures. You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike."
Sali was quickly attacked by some liberal blogs around the country, including ThinkProgress.org, which pointed out that the founders wrote Article VI to say that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
Ellison, a Democrat, was elected in 2006 as the first Muslim in Congress.
"The congressman just doesn't respond to comments like that," said a spokesman, Micah Clemens, in an e-mail to the Statesman.
Sali said he has met fellow freshman Ellison and that he planned to call him to clarify what he was trying to say.