American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

UPDATE Dec. 8: Baptist Joint Committee Executive Director J. Brent Walker responds:
Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. is un-American, unworkable, counterproductive and embarrassing. It’s no more than disgusting demagoguery — exploiting popular fear and fanning pervasive anti-Muslim bigotry for political gain. Americans deserve better than this from those who seek to lead.

Today, in response to the recent attacks in San Bernardino, California, presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” [Pause to let that sink in…]

As the New York Times rightly notes, it is an “unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups.”

In a post last month, I quoted the Baptist Joint Committee’s Brent Walker on the need to avoid blaming an entire religion for the acts of criminals. At a time in which divisive, anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to be increasing, Walker’s statement is worth repeating in full:

It’s important at this time that we not disparage others’ rights of citizenship or religious beliefs. The American experiment in religious liberty has been successful in large part because it has been able to assimilate and protect the religious freedom of unfamiliar minority religions — from Baptists in colonial times to Catholics and Mormons in the 19th Century to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists in the 20th and, I pray, Muslims in the 21st. Common sense, as well as Christian charity, tells us that it is wrong to scapegoat —  to blame an entire religion for the despicable acts of a handful of murderous outliers who claim that religious affiliation. All of Islam cannot be blamed for aberrant acts of criminals motivated by a perverted understanding of their religion just as all of Christendom cannot be blamed for violence spawned over the years by the Ku Klux Klan.

The call to close our borders to all Muslims runs counter to America’s most basic principles of freedom and equality, and it sends a frightful message of exclusion to the millions of Muslim-Americans who are our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. A policy of religious discrimination is, simply put, not an American response. Brent quote on Trump proposal final1 1282015