Good Samaritan 101: Two US Lawmakers defend Keith Ellison and American Muslims

Posted on December 21, 2006


One US Congressman nd one US Senator have come to the aid of the first Muslim elected to Congress, Keith Ellison. Here are their letters defending Congressman Ellison and American Muslims in general:

Rep. Honda’s Letter to Rep. Goode

Dear Congressman Goode:

I was surprised and offended to hear about a constituent letter you wrote in response to Representative-elect Keith Ellison’s intention to use a Koran during his ceremonial swearing in ceremony. In your letter, you warned that “…if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”

You know first hand that no religious text is used during the official swearing in of Members of Congress. Moreover, the Constitution explicitly demands that “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” No person should be labeled as un-American based upon his or her religion, and it is outrageous to cast aspersions on Representative-elect Ellison purely because of his religious background.

Following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, Muslims have been the subject of profoundly warped stereotypes in this country; stereotypes that are largely derived from a small percentage of extremist practitioners. An entire religious group has become scapegoats for the actions of a few fanatics whose beliefs they do not subscribe to. As one of the many Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II because of war hysteria and racial prejudice, I find it particularly offensive that you are equating Representative-elect Ellison’s beliefs with those of radical extremists and condemning him based on their actions.

In your letter, you suggested that all Muslims in this country are immigrants and that immigration laws must be changed to “preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America” by stopping Muslims from entering. Representative-elect Ellison was born in the United States, and his family has lived here since 1742. He was raised Catholic before becoming a Moslem during college. The spread of ideas and philosophies cannot be stopped by barricading our borders, nor should it be.

Keith is a respected member of his community, and a personal friend of mine. I’ve spent a lot of time with him, and I’ve grown to admire his strong moral fiber and his commitment to tolerance and progressive American values. He has said himself that he believes in “a value system that invests in people and asks citizens to work for the common good.” In my mind, those are the values and beliefs traditional to the United States, and I believe that Keith will make a welcome addition to a Congress that has lost its moral compass.

Instead of fearing our diversity, Americans, and Members of Congress in particular, must embrace it. America became a great nation through the collaboration of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other religious and ethnic groups working together to advance our culture and economy. Following in that great American tradition, I would invite you to meet with me to discuss these issues in greater depth. America’s strength lies in its diversity, and together we can stand as a symbol of that strength.


Michael M. Honda
Member of Congress

Senator Robert Menendez’s statement

“America was founded by people seeking religious freedom. Congressman Virgil H. Goode’s statements against Congressman-elect Keith Ellison are an attack on the sanctity of religious freedom that all Americans are guaranteed under the Constitution.

“Rep. Goode should apologize to Mr. Ellison and to all Americans for his intolerance of the diversity which makes our nation a beacon of hope around the world. As elected officials, we are called to represent all Americans, regardless of race, creed, or class. I sincerely hope Rep. Goode will recognize the error of his words.”