"Goode spurs praise, outrage"
BY REX BOWMAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Dec 23, 2006
From e-mails suggesting concentration camps for Muslims to messages bemoaning that all Virginians look like "a bunch of rednecks," the public is weighing in with mixed opinions on U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr.'s letter attacking the migration of Muslims to America.
While Goode's political colleagues have mostly kept silent -- a notable exception being Republican Sen. John W. Warner, who gently chided Goode on Thursday -- readers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch have e-mailed reporters; posted voluminous comments on the newspaper's Web site, timesdispatch.com; and phoned in to voice their opinions.
While many expressed shock and horror at Goode's warning that "many more Muslims" could one day hold elected office in the United States unless immigration laws are tightened, others wrote or called to say "Goode for president!" and to express their belief that Islam is not compatible with democracy. The majority were supportive of Goode.
The political firestorm that has burned through the blogosphere and on cable news shows was ignited Tuesday when the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Goode, R-5th District, to apologize. Goode refused.
Goode's defiance prompted one reader to write: "Someone has to protect our nation from being overtaken by immigrants who wish to convert the rest of us to their way of thinking. I say 'Go get them, Virgil, and God bless you for trying to save our country.'"
"My hat is off to Rep. Goode," another wrote. "What character and bravery to say what all Americans feel."
But Jeff Saxman of Richmond countered: "Attitudes such as those recently exhibited by Virginia's Congressional representative Virgil Goode are a good indication as to why we find ourselves in our current world situation. . . . Such vitriol and lack of either respect or empathy for anyone that differs from the traditional white male Christian ideal has put our nation on the defensive, both rhetorically and literally."
Goode has earned a reputation as Virginia's most outspoken advocate in Congress for clamping down on illegal immigration and curtailing legal immigration. He has pushed legislation to build a fence along the border with Mexico and also sought to make English the nation's official language.
At a news conference Thursday, Goode said he wrote the letter in response to hundreds of e-mails he received from constituents upset by Minnesota Rep.-elect Keith Ellison's decision to use the Quran, the Muslim holy book, in his swearing-in ceremony. While writing that he would use the Bible when he is sworn in for his next term, Goode used the letter to condemn U.S. immigration policies and to call Muslim immigrants a threat to American values and resources.
The letter didn't sit well with Steven McKinley of Richmond, a retired Marine colonel. McKinley wrote: "If Congressman Goode is so adamant about his feelings, I say pick up a rifle and volunteer for the reserves. We could certainly give a God-fearing man like him a waiver and let him serve his country in Iraq. Having spent the better part of 2005 in Al Anbar Province, I served with Marines of all religious affiliations. Funny how when you are fighting a war, you never get around to asking the guy next to you where he goes to church."
"It is so sad when someone so openly bigoted as Rep. Goode can be elected to office," wrote a reader who signed his note Jay from Richmond. "One of this country's real strengths is its separation of church and state. Clearly Mr. Goode does not understand the meaning of religious tolerance. He equates Muslims with terrorists. Oh how quickly we forget, that Christians can persecute and terrorize as well as any religion."
"Here we go again . . . another Virginia politician making Virginians as a whole look like a bunch of rednecks," opined another.
Writer James W. Leftwich disagreed, writing: "The Honorable Virgil Goode is on the right track."
"Somebody nominate Virgil Goode for President," another wrote. "And shame on John Warner. It is an abomination that a Muslim refuse to take the oath on the Bible."