The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice last week sent out a letter to its 1,565-member mailing list asking people to tell their state legislators they are concerned about anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric by state officials.
The letter campaign is an apparent response to comments made by state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, in which he called Islam a cancer in American society, and by Gov. Mary Fallin, who has made statements suggesting that same-sex marriage does not represent Oklahoma values.
“We do not believe the anti-Muslim and anti-gay statements made by some members of the Oklahoma Legislature represent the majority of Oklahomans’ beliefs. Nor do they reflect the true meaning behind ‘Oklahoma values,’ ” OCCJ president Jayme Cox said in the letter.
In an interview, Cox said: “When all the anti-Muslim rhetoric came out, we were concerned about the safety and well-being of our Muslim friends. We wanted to make sure our elected officials were paying attention. … We didn’t feel that enough was being done.”
The OCCJ communication contained a sample letter that could be mailed to lawmakers asking them to “help stop state leaders from making sweeping assertions that link all Muslims to terrorist groups.”
“Such associations are dangerous and only amplify a volatile environment,” the sample letter said.
The sample letter asked officials to stand up against “ignorant rhetoric being perpetuated at the state capitol,” and to “make a stand by signing the online Oklahoma Unites Unity Pledge.”
The Unity Pledge is a statement used by OCCJ several years ago in which signers agree to support unity and understanding in Oklahoma and to oppose bigotry and violence.
“The Unity Pledge is not new,” Cox said. “We have revived the focus on it because we felt the need.”
Cox said she did not know how many Oklahoma lawmakers have signed the pledge.
Bennett made national news in September with social media comments warning Americans to be wary of Muslims.
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry called for Bennett and Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman David Weston to apologize for remarks that “put all Muslims in Oklahoma in one group, associating them with terrorists and encouraging fear and wariness among our citizens against other citizens.”
Bennett refused to apologize and has reiterated his statements at public meetings.