The Council for American Islamic Relations, joined by Jewish Voice for Peace, has called for Carroll County commissioners to repudiate the comments that Commissioner Richard Rothschild made in an editorial published in the Carroll County Times. Speaking at a press conference in front of the Carroll County Office Building in Westminster on Oct. 22, the organization’s Maryland outreach manager, Zainab Chaudry, accused the second-term Republican commissioner of harboring bigoted views against Muslims.
In his Oct. 19 editorial, “Carson right about Islam, president,” Roths-child wrote, among other things, that an American president could not maintain allegiance to Islam and honestly swear to uphold the Constitution. The position echoed a statement given by GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who has similarly drawn fire for the view that Muslims are inherently unable to execute the office of president of the United States.
“As an elected official whose constituents likely include Muslims, Mr. Rothschild’s statements are also particularly disturbing because not only do they convey his bigotry toward Muslims,” read a written letter the CAIR delivered to the board of county commissioners, “but they also further alienate, demean and marginalize several million Americans who practice the Islamic faith.”
“County commissioners take an oath and are sworn to uphold their duties without partiality or prejudice,” said Chaudry. “It is unethical and unconstitutional that a public official of his stature who was elected to serve his constituents equally and fairly would use religion as a basis to unfairly target any American.”
Joining CAIR were speakers from Jewish Voice for Peace, Interfaith Action for Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. Rabbi Charles Feinberg is the executive director at IAHR.
Judge a person on what that person does and not the community [to which] that person belongs.
“I saw the article that was in the Carroll County Times and I was appalled by it. I felt it unfairly characterized Islam,” said Feinberg. “You can always find bad actors in every religion, so to generalize and throw mud at a major religion like that is outrageous.”
Feinberg said that in the same way society doesn’t condemn all Jews if one Jew kills an Arab, Rothschild should do the same for the Muslim community.
“Judge a person on what that person does and not the community [to which] that person belongs,” said Feinberg.
Seth Morrison, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace national board, said Rothschild’s commentary struck him as “something out of the 1850s, something from the dark past that America is trying to bury.”
Morrison said JVP is the only major Jewish organization with a network against Islamophobia.
“We believe as Jews, and as Americans, that all people should have full and equal rights and that discrimination against people due to religion is totally wrong,” said Morrison. “I was frankly embarrassed that any American official would say things like [Rothschild’s comments].”
Last to speak was Meredith Curtis from the ACLU of Maryland, who emphasized that “religious affiliation should never preclude someone from serving in public office.”
“There is a question of personal opinion, and then there is a question of elected leaders limiting or trying to indicate that there should be some limit on who should be an elected official based on their religious affiliation,” said Curtis. “Every person in America has the right to practice their religion, or religions, and our Constitution abhors the idea of a religious test for public office.”
A group of Carroll County residents were also present at the press conference; many defended Rothschild’s editorial.
One resident, who the Carroll County Times identified as Bruce Holstein, Rothschild’s campaign manager, shouted, “That’s where you’re wrong,” following one speaker’s remarks; he was holding a sign that read “Rothschild is right! CAIR is wrong!”
Carroll County resident James Reter said he agrees with Rothschild that the Koran is in conflict with the Constitution because “the Constitution doesn’t say it’s OK to go around beheading people.”