A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pastor in Oklahoma defended two imam friends accused by a state legislator of being terrorists.

Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) said at a state Capitol hearing last week that Muslim groups operating in Oklahoma and across the nation pose a danger of “radical Islam” taking hold in the state.

“We’re going to do all we can to kick these terrorist organizations out of the state of Oklahoma and do whatever it takes to protect our citizens,” Bennett said.

Bennett said groups like Council on American Islamic Relations, North Atlantic Islamic Trust and Islamic Society of North America “are here to destroy us.”

“The enemy must be stopped,” Bennett said in remarks quoted by The Oklahoman. “We’re going to be called bigots, and racists, and Islamophobes and a whole host of other things by the media after this is over. We’re going to be called that by terrorists’ organizations like CAIR that is here today, but you know that is a small price to pay to put our foot to the tail end of these terrorists and these anti-American groups in the name of freedom.”

Mitch Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Okla., said in a blog Oct. 26 that the people lumped together as terrorists include two of his good friends. Randall is one of a number of pastors across the country to reach out to local Muslims in response to anti-Islamic sentiment across the nation rising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“As a Christian and Baptist minister, I stand beside my Muslim brothers and sisters because I truly believe this is what Jesus would do,” Randall said. “As an American citizen, I stand beside you because I still believe that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land for every citizen, not just the powerful elite. In closing, to my Muslim brothers and sisters, ‘I, for one, do not consider you an enemy, but a friend.’”

Bennett, a professing Christian who worships at an Assembly of God congregation in Muldrow, Okla., came under fire in September 2014 for inflammatory remarks against American Muslims.

In an August 2014 Facebook post, Bennett called on Oklahomans to be “wary” of Muslim Americans and claimed the Quran says non-Muslims “should be killed.”

He later defended the comments in a meeting with constituents, describing Islam as “a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.”

Randall said he views such actions “as egregiously opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“During Jesus life and ministry, he engaged and welcomed the strangers among his people, even when his people felt differently about them,” Randall said.

As a student of history aware of the state church persecution of Baptists in colonial America, Randall said he is “absolutely terrified local magistrates are once again using faith as a tool for persecution and harassment.”

“The charade that took place at the Oklahoma Capitol on Tuesday should make every American’s blood boil,” Randall said. “There is nothing more un-American than elected public officials making unsubstantiated accusations against law abiding and peaceful citizens of a different faith. This line of inquiry and investigation must cease immediately. If allowed to continue, the echoes of a new McCarthyism will grow louder over time.”

One Muslim leader attending the hearing accused Rep. Bennett of “wasting taxpayer money to promote his own biased agenda.”

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