Part 2: The Underlying Danger of Neal Tapio [OPINION]
A gathering of interfaith leaders at the State Capitol in Pierre this week offered South Dakotans a glimpse into the fundamental beliefs of Neal Tapio.
A dangerous and frightening glimpse.
In Part 1 of this examination, I said that Tapio -- a state senator from Watertown -- isn't in a search for the costs of immigration on South Dakota. It's an effort to undermine Lutheran Social Services resettlement programs and a general crusade to keep religions other than his version of Christianity out of South Dakota.
On Wednesday, he proved it.
A large group of religious leaders from across the spectrum come to the people’s house with nothing more than a message of tolerance and understanding in the wake of Tapio's announcement he wanted to examine the cost of immigration in South Dakota.
Lutheran Bishop David Zellmer told South Dakota Public Radio that he felt other religions we're being treated poorly.
“There’s all kinds of things we don’t know in this state. So, part of it is is just knowing who our neighbors are and having some appreciation for them,” Zellmer said. “We built this state with people from all over the world, and we continue to do that.”
Tapio not only showed up, but hijacked the event to spread his ill-founded theories. When asked to join the group photo, he stood in front, in the middle, and then turned to the group and said he didn't like being called a racist.
Here's what he said, according to SDPB:
“We have a domestic threat that’s going on right here in our country. Refugee resettlements and interfaith dialogue is a part of a war, it’s a silent part. It’s a part about taking away the Christian fabric of our nation,” Tapio says. “Now, some people are okay with that. That’s their prerogative. But there are American patriots that want to fight.”
It’s an astonishing revelation of his bigotry cloaked in patriotism.
This is the worst form of nationalism. We’ve seen it play out time and again, around the world. Yugoslavia, Sudan, Albania, Bosnia. Make no mistake – this is not religion. It is not faith. It is not Christianity.
Tapio’s crusade is unnerving. This gathering was organized by the Lutherans. You simply don’t get any more mainstream South Dakota than that.
As I said in Part 1 of this examination, I wouldn’t presume to tell Mr. Tapio what he should think or say. That’s not for me. But to have any faith in the future of this state, it’s my great hope that spends this session of the Legislature in isolation, with whatever delusion he lives with roiling through his brain.
I don’t believe South Dakotans in the main agree with Mr. Tapio. But it’s important for people to speak out. Mr. Tapio is a likely candidate for Congress from our state. I’m not going to tell Republicans who to vote for in June, but the question about who we are and how we treat people of other faiths is central to the debate.
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