Raleigh, N.C. — The nation's largest Muslim advocacy group is calling on the Republican Party to repudiate state Rep. Michele Presnell, who equated the religion of Islam with "terrorism" in a recent email to a constituent.
Presnell, R-Yancey, is a co-sponsor of the now-notorious House Joint Resolution 494.
That resolution, which House leaders say is now officially dead, said the state has the authority to establish a religion if it chooses to and can choose not to recognize judicial rulings on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment.
Last week, when the resolution was in the headlines, constituent Britt Kaufmann wrote to Presnell to express her opposition to it.
In the email exchange, Kaufmann identifies herself as a Christian and tells Presnell the measure would be divisive.
"I believe it violates our country's Constitution, and freedom of religion is one of America's founding principles," she wrote.
In a follow-up message, Kaufmann asked, "Would you be comfortable with a public prayer to Allah before a legislative meeting in Raleigh?"
"No, I do not condone terrorism," Presnell responded. "Britt, we just need to start taking a stand on our religious freedom, or it will be whisked away from us."
"I am saddened that you make a leap from Allah to terrorism so quickly," Kaufmann responded. "If the state sets a precedent of choosing one religion above others, we have to be prepared for any religion to be chosen as the preferential one."
"No, you are wrong," Presnell responded. "Have a good day."
CAIR: Comment 'bigoted'
The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement Wednesday calling for Presnell to be reprimanded.
"If the Republican Party hopes to reach out to minority groups, it must clearly and forcefully repudiate such bigoted comments by its representatives," CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor said in the statement.
A GOP official in southern California was reprimanded by her party for anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh remarks last December, Saylor noted.
Presnell closed her office door on a WRAL News reporter at the Legislative Building on Wednesday, and a second request to interview her went unanswered.
Kaufmann said she was surprised by the lawmaker's responses.
"She represents me, too, and even though I am also Christian, I simply wanted her to know that not all Christians in her district supported this idea of a state religion," Kaufmann said via email.
However, she gave Presnell credit for responding to her message.
"As long as she was willing to enter into dialog, I felt I should pursue it. That's when change can happen, when people talk and exchange ideas," she said. "Not all politicians are open to that. They simply send form letters and don't engage, especially with dissenting opinions."