Congressman Virgil Goode, R-Va., said today he will not retract his letter to constituents that warned "many more Muslims" will be elected unless the country's immigration policies are strengthened.
The letter was written in response to concerns raised by hundreds of constituents regarding the recent declaration by Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., that he would be using a Quran, not a Bible, during his swearing in on Jan. 4. Ellison, who converted to Islam during college, is the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.
"When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran [Quran] in any way," Goode's letter reads.
Goode's letter directly referenced the newly-elected Ellison.
"The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," the letter said.
When asked directly during the press conference whether he was against Ellison using the Quran for his swearing in, Goode volleyed to voters in Minnesota's 5th District.
"That's a decision that the voters of that district in Minnesota made when they elected whomever they elected," Goode said.
Rep. Ellison, in an appearance on CNN's Situation Room this afternoon, said he looked forward to meeting the Virginia congressman and that Goode "has a lot to learn about Islam."
"My reaction, externally and internally is the same," Ellison said. "I can honestly say that I'm not angered by Rep. Goode's comments. I just think it's a learning gap we have to close."
Virginia's senior senator, Republican John Warner, also weighed in on the controversy surrounding Goode's letter, saying he respects the right of members of Congress to freely "exercise the religion of their choice, including those of the Islamic faith utilizing the Quran."
Quotes from Goode's letter circulated the Internet after a Charlottesville newspaper published the letter on its Web site.
District constituent John Cruickshank, who had been mistakenly included on the recipient list and thought the letter was a forgery, said he first contacted Goode's office to confirm that the congressman sent the letter. When a receptionist at Goode's district office confirmed its authenticity, Cruickshank decided to take the letter to the press.
"It reflected intolerance and disrespect for people of the Muslim faith. This is not what I would expect from a congressman in a nation that prides itself on a long tradition of religious freedom," Cruickshank said in a telephone interview.
Goode's letter also stressed a need for tougher stances on diversity visas as well as both legal and illegal immigration, a position he reaffirmed during the press conference by quoting his own letter.
"I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped," the letter said.
Goode's letter also stressed a need for tougher stances on immigration.