Freedom of religion is only for Christians: North Dakota House Republicans cancelled a Muslim prayer scheduled to be delivered earlier this week because Christians shouldn’t be “forced” to listen to someone who “worships another god.”
House Republicans were upset that a Muslim cleric was scheduled to appear on Ash Wednesday, a religious holiday observed by most Catholics and some Protestant denomination, and so they canceled the planned appearance of Dr. Nadim Koleilat, the board president of the Bismarck Muslim Community Center, who was scheduled to give the opening prayer.
Instead, House Republicans substituted a Christian, Rev. Rich Wyatt of Living Hope Church of the Nazarene, for the scheduled Muslim speaker.
A particularly vocal and obnoxious opponent of the scheduled Muslim prayer was District 24 Rep. Dwight Kiefert. The Republican said:
I mean, you had representatives on the floor with ash on their foreheads commemorating the day. And so then you’re going to force them to listen to a prayer that they don’t agree with? It wasn’t very well thought out, I don’t think.
Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau reports Kiefert said in a phone interview:
“It just wasn’t appropriate.”
Kiefert said Christians shouldn’t be “forced” to listen to someone who “worships another god” during “one of the holiest days of the year.”
“In Egypt, Christians are being slaughtered and beheaded,” he said, referring to the murder of a group of Egyptians in Libya by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.“We’re for free speech and free religion,” Kiefert said. “We’re against forcing people to participate in something they disagree with.”
In other words, we’re for free speech and free religion, as long as it is Christian speech and Christian religion.
Inforum reports on reactions from North Dakota Democrats:
House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, a Democrat from Parshall, called the situation “terrible” and said Koleilat should have been allowed to deliver the prayer.
“We’ve got to respect all religions,” he said.
District 24 Rep. Naomi Muscha, D-Enderlin, also said she had no problem with Muslim prayer in the Capitol.
“I don’t want my religious rights taken from me, and you start closing the doors on one, then they can all be shut down,” she said.
On Friday, Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Minnesota chapter, issued a statement calling on North Dakota Republican leaders to apologize for the incident, noting:
Lawmakers of any political persuasion should reject religious bigotry and exclusion.
This incident is yet another argument why sectarian prayers have no place in official government functions, and yet another example of how some Christians fail to honor the secular values upon which this country was founded.