ADL LETTER TO REPRESENTATIVE VIRGIL GOODE, JR
Representative Virgil Goode, Jr
U.S., House of Representatives
Dear Representative Goode:
We are writing to express strong concerns about reports that you sent a letter to constituents assailing immigration to the United States by Muslims and the use of the Koran to swear in an elected Member of Congress.
Your letter demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the fundamental religious guarantees enshrined in the US Constitution. Article VI, Clause 3 states that, “no religious Test shall ever be required” to hold public office in America. Members of Congress, like all Americans, should be free to observe their own religious practices without government interference or coercion.
As you must know from personal experience, no Member of Congress is officially sworn in with a Bible. Under House rules, the official swearing-in ceremony is done in the House chambers, with the Speaker of the House administering the oath of office en masse. No Bibles or other holy books are used at all.
You assert that only adoption of “the Virgil Goode position on immigration” can “preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America.” While we would note that Representative-elect Ellison is not an immigrant, we must take issue with your view that immigration to the US by Muslims or members of any other faith is somehow not in concert with American values and traditions. Quite the contrary. A fundamental hallmark of America is in how we as a nation have embraced immigrants of all faiths and national origins.
Your letter states your “fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States.” To suggest Muslims should be viewed with fear, based solely on their faith, demonizes millions of people living in our communities. This is of special concern at a time when the stereotyping and disparate treatment of communities as part of debates over immigration or counterterrorism policy impacts those people in very tangible ways, including making them more vulnerable to bias-motivated violence.
Reasonable people can and will disagree on the best course for our nation’s immigration policy. It is clear, however, that there is a direct connection between the tone of the national policy debate and the atmosphere surrounding the daily lives of immigrants – legal and illegal. Politicians and civic leaders have a responsibility not to engage in divisive appeals based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion.
It is both ironic and troubling that the sentiments expressed come from an elected leader from the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state that is often referred to as the birthplace of religious freedom in America. Many of the principles of religious freedom that were inscribed in our Constitution were proposed, of course, by Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson.
What truly unifies all Americans, Rep. Goode, is a value system built on religious freedom, respect for differences, and democratic pluralism. We urge you to rethink your ill-conceived remarks about Muslims in America.
David C. Friedman
ADL Washington DC Regional Director