Ashcroft Statement on Islam Shows Intolerance, Says Americans United. (People & Events)

Church & State, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Ashcroft Statement on Islam Shows Intolerance, Says Americans United. (People & Events)


Attorney General John D. Ashcroft has been criticized for comments suggesting that Islam falls short when compared to Christianity.

Ashcroft made the controversial remarks during an interview with syndicated columnist Cal Thomas in November, but they have only recently come to light. According to Thomas, Ashcroft said, "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you."

Justice Department officials say Ashcroft meant the comments to apply only to terrorists and not mainstream Muslims. A department spokesperson called the flap "an innocent misunderstanding."

But the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said the controversy is further evidence that Ashcroft is intent on using his office to promote a religious agenda.

"The attorney general needs to learn that he represents all Americans, not just fundamentalist Christians, and that he has been appointed to a secular position," said Lynn. "Ashcroft is the attorney general, not the national pastor."

Lynn noted that Ashcroft is a favorite of the Religious Right. In a 1998 appearance before the Christian Coalition, Ashcroft attacked church-state separation, asserting that a "robed elite" has "taken the wall of separation built to protect the church and made it a wall of religious oppression."

Remarked Lynn, "During this difficult period in our nation's history, we need political leaders who understand the importance of inter-faith harmony. If Ashcroft wants to run down other religions and promote Christianity, he ought to do it as a private citizen and resign from the attorney general's office."

U.S. Muslim groups have also called on the attorney general to clarify his remarks. On Feb. 11 the American Muslim Council issued a statement noting that the comments had made many in the Muslim community uncomfortable.

"The Attorney General's alleged remarks, which are not factual, will provide another excuse for discrimination and persecution of a community already under a lot of pressures," read the statement. …

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