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Faith Group: IA Leaders Need to Stomp Out Extremism

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Friday, February 4, 2022   

Iowa policymakers are debating a number of politically divisive issues, and as the legislative process plays out, they are being urged to avoid rhetoric faith leaders argue intertwines with extremism.

This week, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa sent a letter to the governor and state lawmakers asking them to be better role models, suggesting language stoking extremism will harm democracy. The letter cited recent incidents the group said intersect with divineness seen around the state.

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, spoke at a news conference, saying through his experience as a Black person, it's nothing new, but he added it does not mean recent events should be overlooked.

"These attacks aren't just to cause fear, but some individuals have the intent to follow through," Smith cautioned.

Smith noted he has received threatening emails and was part of a recent Zoom meeting infiltrated by agitators who displayed racist images and language. The letter was signed by more than 500 people and noted educators have been harassed when addressing diversity issues. It coincides with legislative efforts to limit certain curriculum and materials in schools, with sponsors arguing the need for transparency in the classroom.

Rev. Meg Wagner, missioner for congregational development, communications, and reconciliation for the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, said as these incidents and debates escalate, they are likely to embolden people who feel the need to spread hate and fear.

"We cannot allow these things to be normalized, and we see them all as interconnected," Wagner asserted. "We're calling on our lawmakers and all Iowans to do better and to be better."

Among the requests detailed in the letter is a call for lawmakers and residents to seek out verified facts and to not promote misinformation. The signees also said dismantling racism should involve open dialogue about U.S. history and how certain events have impacted communities of color over time.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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