DALLASTOWN, Pa. (AP) –
A pastor is decrying an angry phone message and social media posting from a school board member who’s also a Republican convention delegate about a church sign that reads: “Wishing a blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors.”
The Rev. Christopher Rodkey said he got a call June 11 about the sign outside St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, from an unidentified man who called the sign “despicable” and referred to Islam as a “godless” and “pagan” religion.
Rodkey said he looked up the caller’s number and found it belonged to Matthew Jansen, a member of the Spring Grove Area School District and an elected delegate to the Republican National Convention who supports Donald Trump.
A photo of the sign was also posted on Jansen’s Twitter page along with the church’s phone number. Rodkey said he received a number of hang-up calls, prompting the church to disconnect the phone and answering machine, and was still getting calls five days later.
Rodkey said he posted the message on the sign because he believes that Muslims are used as scapegoats by the religious right and his church “is interested in religious tolerance.”
Jansen said he has driven past the church many times and has seen “disturbing things” on its sign, but this one “was over the top as far as I was concerned.” To him, Jansen said, the message was “blasphemous” and deserved a response.
Jansen said he was irate when he called Rodkey’s cellphone and forgot to leave his name but later called the church back to leave his name and number. He said he wasn’t trying to do anything intimidating but wanted to confront what he called the “greater issue of Islam.”
“I don’t see Islam — or the Muslim belief — I don’t see it as legit,” he said, noting that the Orlando shooting happened a day after his call.
Rodkey said he was disturbed by the message and post as well as other items on Jansen’s Twitter page, especially because they came from a school board member and convention delegate.
“I can’t believe an elected official would believe the things that he does,” he said. Jansen said his voicemail message and social media posts are his own views and don’t represent the views of others.