I copied this letter word for word from my local newspaper:
An Open Letter to Bob McDonnell (Governor Elect of Virginia)
by Charlene Kammerer, Martin Beifeld, and M. Imad Damaj
Dear Gov. Elect McDonnell:
Recently, in response to the shootings at Fort Hood, the Rev. Pat Robertson asserted that Islam is "not a religion" but a "violent political system" and that those who practice it should be treated like members of a communist or fascist party.
The vast majority of Muslims in America and in Viginia do not not support the actions of the shooter in Fort Hood. As with the rest of America, they find the shootings to be absolutely horrifying and were extremely disappointed in the fact that someone would even try to use his religion to justify such an act of treason and criminal behavior. Many mosques and organizations in Virginia immediately issued statements condemning this criminal act.
While we believe that Robertson does not speak for you or for all Americans of Christian faith, his words matter because they come from someone who has had a longstanding relationship with you. In your 2006 interview when you were a guest on his program, "the 700 club", you asserted the "important role of the church and the family and the other institutions in society, and what happens if government tries to take on those roles can often make a mess. It also gave me the real importance of being a Christian elected official...and acting in a degree of civility and trying to build bridges to get things done" you said. This time, instead of the "bad Muslim" being a terrorist called bin Laden, Robertson wants you and wants all Americans to "destroy bridges" and to believe that your Muslim neighbors, co-workers, and classmates are all "bad" people who deserve to be treated as enemies. The choice for Robertson is not between good and bad individuals or citizens, but about being a Muslim.
We strongly disagree with Robertson's words of intolerance and hate because we beliee that our religious traditions are built upon love and compassion. We also believe that America's civic fabric would be greatly strengthened if people from diferent backgrounds would come together to build understanding with one another and cooperate to serve the broader society rather than seek to divide and demonize whole groups of people. Gov. elect mcDonnell, words matter.
We do not blame a whole religion for the violent actions of some of its followers. We do not blame Christianity for Timmothy mcVeigh's act of domestic terrorism. We do not blame Judaism for Bernard Madoff's act of theft and betrayal. In our opinion, all religions should constantly challenge their adherents to live according to the highest ideals of their faith, and all religions should condemn the violence and intolerance of some of their adherents.
Robertson's words are more than a simple "disagreement". For those who listen to him, they are a call to action: a call to hate your neighbor. They are against our tradition of religious tolerance and diversity, central to the character of our nation. Words of hate such as those spoken by Robertson will create in America and in Virginia new room for bigotry and intolerance. Our shared traditions call upon us to create local spaces for mutual appreciation and understanding. Despite our theological differences, the fact that we Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship the same God seems to escape people like Pat Robertson.
We believe it's unfair to expect our political leaders to be held accountable for every foolish word that a supporter happens to say. But in this case-when a supporter is among your top associates- it's important for yout to tell Virginians directly, and not through a spokesperson, that you do not agree with words of hate, intolerance, and bigotry.
Gov. Elect McDonnell, some of us had the pleasure to know you in the past and we firmly believe that you aspire to be the governor of Virginians of all faiths. In this spirit, we are anxious to hear your public remarks opposing the divisive words of Rev. Pat Robertson and asserting your vision of an inclusive Virginia.
(Bishop Kammerer is with the United Methodist Church; Rabbi Beifeld is with Beth Ahabah Congregation in Richmond; M. Imad Dmaj is with the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs)
Note: this thing reminds me of the Rev. Wright affair, in political reverse.