BJC joins criticism of Bachmann

Forty-two organizations joined a growing protest of recent anti-Muslim accusations by conservative lawmakers that have been compared to McCarthyism.

By Bob Allen

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and American Baptist Churches USA were among 42 religious and secular organizations that signed an open letter July 26 protesting Rep. Michelle Bachmann and other conservative lawmakers’ recent allegation that certain prominent Muslim-Americans are part of an Islamic conspiracy to infiltrate the U.S. government.

In June Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland wrote five government agencies responsible for national security demanding investigation into allegations including that the State Department’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, has three family members connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group that backed Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Mursi.

The letters quoted the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think-tank founded by radio talk show host and Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney, often criticized as an Islamaphobe.

Last Thursday’s letter by a variety of interfaith, advocacy, legal and community organizations accused the representatives using “guilt by association” tactics to question the loyalty of certain Americans “based on nothing more than their religious affiliations” and “at best tenuous” accusations.

“Far from supporting the safety of our country, these accusations distract us from examining legitimate threats using proven, evidence-based security strategies,” the letter said. “Moreover, we know all too well the danger of casting suspicion on loyal and innocent Americans simply because they hold particular beliefs. We will not stand idly by and allow our country to revive federal investigations into innocent individuals based on their religious adherence.”

The signers said Bachmann and the others’ actions “have serious implications for religious freedom and the health of our democracy.

“We will continue to speak out in support of people of all faiths and no faith, and the religious freedom of all Americans to practice -- or choose not to practice -- a religion without fear of criticism or suspicion,” the letter said.

Other signers included Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Faith in Public Life, the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and denominations including Catholics, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church.

"I hope that Rep. Bachmann and her colleagues take the time to look at the diverse coalition that has come together to challenge their actions,” said Interfaith Alliance President Welton Gaddy, an ordained Baptist minister. “The groups signing this letter have very different ideas about faith and belief, but we are united in our commitment to religious freedom and will not stand by when anyone's faith is unfairly demonized."