Rep to Staff: Ask Muslim Visitors to Pledge Allegiance

Jan 29, 2015

Credit Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Freshman state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, was not in Austin today to celebrate Texas Muslim Capitol Day. But she left instructions for the staff in her Capitol office on how to handle visitors who were, including asking them to declare allegiance to the United States.

"I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws," she posted on Facebook. "We will see how long they stay in my office."

Texas Muslim Capitol Day, which began in 2003, is organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and brings members of Muslim communities in Houston, Dallas and other areas of the state to the Capitol to learn about the political process and meet state lawmakers.

Even before participants in Thursday's event — about 100 Muslims, mostly children — could get to lawmakers' offices, they encountered opposition from a group of about 25 protesters outside the Capitol  holding signs. One said, "Radical Islam is the New Nazi." Another said, "Go Home & Take Obama With You."

The Muslim group held a press conference on the South steps of the Capitol, where one of the protesters yanked the microphone from an event organizer, shouting, “Islam will never dominate the United States and by the grace of God, it will never dominate Texas.”

As the group of Muslims continued the event by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," the interruptions persisted, with the protesters yelling, “Islam is a lie!” and “No Sharia here!”

Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, called the behavior "very frustrating." Carroll said this was the first year protesters showed up since Muslim Capitol Day began.

"I'm more concerned with state leaders and what they say than I am about anybody else because they are the lawmakers," he said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus asking whether White had violated ethics rules by instructing her staff to ask Muslim visitors to her office to declare their allegiance to the United States.

"Our ethics question is: Has Rep. White violated any House rules in creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities trying to meet with her or her staff?" the letter asks. "Are House members prohibited from making constituents take oaths before meeting with their elected representatives or House staff?"

Straus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

White could not immediately be reached for comment; the Israeli flag was still on the desk in her office as of mid-morning on Thursday. She released a follow-up Facebook post later in the day that added:

“I do not apologize for my comments… If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not."

The Texas Democratic Party called on Republican leaders to denounce White's "vile and bigoted" remarks.

“Her toxic and divisive rhetoric does not represent the values and principles of our diverse state," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa wrote in a statement.

Gov. Greg Abbott's office declined to comment.