Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, fortified a recent email encouraging Minnesotans in the 5th Congressional District to vote Rep. Keith Ellison (D) out -- in part because he's a Muslim -- by stating that he, as well as most Tea Party members, has serious qualms with Islam.
"A majority of Tea Party members, I suspect, are not fans of Islam," Phillips said in an interview with the Daily Caller. "I, personally have a real problem with Islam. With Islam, you have a religion that says kill the Jews, kill the infidels. It bothers me when a religion says kill the infidels. It bothers me a lot more when I am the infidel."
Earlier in the week, Phillips blasted out an email asking voters to support Ellison's opponent Lynne Torgerson, a divisive candidate herself in the area of religious tolerance:
There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year, but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of congress. He supports the Counsel for American Islamic Relations, HAMAS and has helped congress send millions of tax to terrorists in Gaza.
Phillips, who came to prominence earlier this year for organizing a much-maligned, mainstream Tea Party National Convention, rectified his incorrect assertion that Ellison is the "only Muslim member of congress" to the Daily Caller -- Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) is also Muslim -- but, according to a post on Tea Party Nation, as well as a later interview in the Washington Post, would not excuse his opposition to the congressman on religious grounds.
"I am not going to apologize because I'm bothered by a religion that says kill the infidel, especially when I am the infidel," Phillips wrote on Tea Party Nation, according to the Daily Caller. "Should we vote out Keith Ellison just because he is a Muslim? No. But his beliefs define his character and his character is a central issue."
Lynne Torgerson's website can provide a little insight into how her candidacy meshes with Judson Phillips's religious motivation for taking on Ellison.
Torgerson devotes a large portion of her issues page to anti-Islamist rhetoric and anti-CAIR conspiracies. Despite her intense fear of the connection between Islam and terrorism, however, she does say, "To my great relief, I have learned that there are moderate, America loving, Constitution supporting muslims."
Ellison responded to the matter in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Wednesday.
"I issue a call to civility, and urge Americans to reject the divisive rhetoric of Republican Tea Party leaders like Judson Phillips; including calls for my defeat solely because of my religion," Ellison wrote. "I know that some don't share my political views. This is OK. In America, we cherish our diversity of views. But an American's religion is their own business and no one should be excluded based on considerations like religion, race, sex, etc."