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Colorado House speaker calls out member for antisemitic, Islamophobic sermons

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Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie criticized a Republican representative’s recent comments on the war between Israel and Hamas, and she said that the conflict has exposed the presence of both Islamophobia and antisemitism in the state.

“As we get closer to the 2024 legislative session, I want to urge all members to rise to the level of civility and decency our positions require, refrain from personal attacks on each other, and consider the consequences of intolerance,” the Dillon Democrat posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Tuesday night.

“As we continue to witness tragic suffering and the deaths of thousands of innocent people in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, we must reiterate our love and support for our Jewish and Palestinian community members gripped by fear, heartbreak and uncertainty,” she wrote.

She referred specifically to statements made by Colorado Springs Rep. Scott Bottoms, who is a pastor at the conservative Church at Briargate. Bottoms has a history of making anti-trans and homophobic comments on the House floor and frequently speaks about conservative politics at his church.

“Jesus, use this as an opportunity for people to reach out to you, for the Jewish people to realize that you’re the savior and the redeemer,” Scott said during a prayer October 11, three days after the Palestinian militant group Hamas invaded Israel, killed over 1,000 people and kidnapped hundreds in an act widely described by world leaders as terrorism.

McCluskie said the call for Jewish people to convert to Christianity in light of the attack was “deeply offensive and hurtful” to the community.

During an October 22 sermon, Bottoms denied the existence of Palestinian people.

“Did you know that there is no such thing as the Palestinian people?” he said. “That’s a made up thing.”

“(The Palestinian Liberation Organization) has just been sitting there for so long now that they have squatters’ rights, and now the whole world — under the influence of Satan — the whole world is calling this the Palestinian people,” he said. The PLO runs the government in the West Bank, but not in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based. It has an observer status within the United Nations and, in the 1990s, recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Bottoms then called the idea of Palestine a “weird thing that the world embraces in such a stupid way.”

“This conflict has shown that both antisemitism and Islamophobia are present in Colorado, and it is our duty to stand strongly against all forms of hatred and bigotry. In these moments, our words matter to our communities. We must lead with compassion, humility and care for all,” McCluskie wrote.

Bottoms did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Israel’s retaliatory airstrike attacks and ground invasion in Gaza have killed over 9,000 people in the territory so far, according to Gazan officials. Additionally, Israel has strictly limited the delivery of food, water and fuel into the territory, and experts warn of an imminent humanitarian crisis.

Colorado lawmakers have largely condemned the attacks made by Hamas, but have also called for Israel and the international community to recognize the human rights of Palestinian civilians living in Gaza. There are two lawmakers with direct personal ties to the region: Sen. Dafna Michaelson Jenet is Jewish and was born in Israel, and Rep. Iman Jodeh is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants.

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