Delaware senator's anti-Muslim comments draw rebuke
Comments that state Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, made about Islam on the floor of the chamber Wednesday led to a rare rebuke from the chamber's chief member and sparked a brief but fierce discussion about religious freedom.
"We just heard from the Quran, which calls for our very demise," Lawson said after a Muslim duo gave the invocation, including a passage from their holy text. "I fought for this country, not to be damned by someone that comes in here and prays to their God for our demise. I think that's despicable."
Lawson served in the Air Force and did a tour in Vietnam. He addressed his colleagues on the floor of the Senate.
Tarek Ewis, imam of the Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam mosque in Newark, and Naveed Baqir, executive director of the Delaware Council on Global and Muslim Affairs, were invited to give the Senate invocation.
Lawson and Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover South, stepped out of the chamber for the prayer. They re-entered when the speakers had finished, and Lawson gave a brief speech, saying he "took great exception" to the reading from the Quran.
After Lawson's comments, the Senate proceeded as normal, debating and passing several bills. But before the chamber adjourned later in the evening, President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-New Castle, halted, saying he felt "there is complicity in remaining silent."
"I have never been of the mind to censure the words of other members, but I also believe deeply that words have consequences," McBride said, reading aloud from a statement. "To criticize the sacred prayer of another religion from the floor of the Senate strikes me as antithetical to everything we ought to stand for as lawmakers."
McBride went on to say that Muslims serve in the military and as police and are doctors, professors and teachers.
"I am personally offended that our guests from the Muslim community and anyone else here in the chamber today would feel anything less than welcomed with opened arms," McBride said. "And for our guests today to be branded as anti-American when our First Amendment of our country’s Constitution explicitly guarantees the freedom of religion is both ironic and deeply sad to me."
McBride said he was "hopeful we can move past this sad chapter in the body's history."
Afterward, Lawson said he thought McBride was "ignorant to what's going on."
He said the Quran includes passages about killing "infidels" and pointed to some majority-Muslim countries that restrict women's rights and persecute Christians, among other evils.
"Their belief flies in the face of our Constitution," Lawson said afterward. "This is not our Bible, we should not be allowing them to pray from that book in our house, just as I do not believe I would be allowed to pray from my Bible in their house."
Baqir called Lawson's comments "textbook Islamaphobia."