A Letter to Larry Craig: Saperstein Condemns Bigoted, Anti-Islam Remarks of Senate Policy Committee Staffer
WASHINGTON, July 9, 1999 - Today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released a letter to Senator Larry Craig (R-ID). Rabbi Saperstein's letter responds to a letter that Senator Craig sent to the Council on Islamic-American Relations, concerning the bigoted, anti-Islamic statements of Mr. James George Jantras, a policy analyst for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, which Senator Craig chairs.
Mr. Jantras' remarks were made over a year ago, in a speech to the Serbian Unity Congress Convention, and they have since been published on the internet. In defending Mr. Jantras, Senator Craig noted that he "absolutely condemn[s] any sort of bigotry or intolerance." Rabbi Saperstein's letter challenges Senator Craig to acknowledge the unacceptable prejudices in Mr. Jantras' remarks and to condemn such language: "Your failure to condemn Mr. Jantras' comments as an egregious example of such unacceptable language surprises and disappoints me."
The full text of Rabbi Saperstein's letter follows:
Dear Senator Craig:
I write in reference to your June 9, 1999 letter to Mr. Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Given that you "absolutely condemn any sort of bigotry or intolerance," I am concerned that you do not recognize Mr. James George Jantras' comments as a prime example of such intolerance.
As you are well aware, in a speech to the Serbian Unity Congress Convention, Mr. Jantras, a Policy Analyst for the Senate Republican Policy Committee, referred to Islam as a "gigantic Christian-killing machine" and stated that its origin came from "the darkness of heathen Araby."
I know that you are a man of your word and that you do not tolerate bigotry, in our nation, and certainly not in our Capitol. It is for that reason that your failure to condemn Mr. Jantras' comments as an egregious example of such unacceptable language surprises and disappoints me. Let me be clear: I do not wish to infringe upon anyone's right to free speech. Mr. Jantras is definitely within his rights as a private citizen to speak his mind. His comments, nevertheless, constitute an expression of prejudice that it is dangerous to deny.
As a Rabbi and the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing a religious minority, I am perhaps particularly sensitive to attacks on faith. Jantras' bigoted comments have no place in American government or American society. It is especially inexcusable that such a comment could come from an individual who advises United States Senators on foreign affairs.
I hope that in the future we can work together to condemn acts of bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance. By doing so, we can we can meet our shared goals of a stronger, better, more tolerant America.
Rabbi David Saperstein
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.