Sam Rodriguez Leaves Oak Initiative over Anti-Muslim Organizing
Earlier this month, Rachel Tabachnick wrote a story on The Oak Initiative, a Religious Right group that has partnered with right wing extremist Frank Gaffney to promote anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.
Tabachnick noted in particular that the vice president of the Initiative was evangelical leader Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. This revelation was surprising given Rodriguez’s previous vocal support for religious pluralism and against extremism.
Blogger Greg Metzger noted this apparent contradiction and approached Rev. Rodriguez about it. After Metzger read some of the anti-Islam propaganda the Oak Initiative was sponsoring, Rodriguez appeared to have a change of heart:
I found that Rev. Rodriguez was genuinely troubled by Tabachnik’s charges. He challenged some of the details of her story, but on the principal point–his relationship with the Oak Initiative–he agreed that there was cause for concern. He knew instinctively as I read to him the Oak Initiative’s views about Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood that this was an affront to what he wished to stand for.
Metzger reported that Rodriguez told him he would be denouncing this extremism and resigning from the board of the Oak Initiative. This step was a major victory in the fight against anti-Muslim extremism and a testament to the power of truth. When confronted with the full-throated extremism of people like Frank Gaffney, no person of good faith should be able to excuse or justify it.
But although Rodriguez indeed left the Oak Initiative, we haven’t yet seen a public denunciation of their extremism.
We appreciate Rodriguez’s admirable decision to distance himself from a group promoting fringe theories about Muslims, and hope this can be an opportunity for him and other people of faith to stand firmly against bigotry and the spread of harmful misinformation.
Photo credit: National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference