Cynthia M. Allen

The ‘dogma’ of intolerance must not live within the GOP

Shahid Shafi was elected to the City Council in Southlake in 2014.
Shahid Shafi was elected to the City Council in Southlake in 2014. Special to the S-T

Last September, in a now infamous exchange between Sen. Dianne Feinstein and judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett, California’s senior senator suggested that Barrett’s adherence to her Roman Catholic faith rendered her unfit for the federal bench.

“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern,” concluded Feinstein, after an inquisition-like interrogation, in which she was joined by Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Mazie Hirono in arguing that it wasn’t simply Barrett’s religion but her devotion to it that made her unable to exercise independent judgment in making decisions and writing opinions — as if Barrett, a highly educated law professor, could not distinguish the law from her faith.

The entire episode was infuriating, not only because of the offense it caused, but because so few Democratic senators admonished their colleagues for it; few found it necessary to rebuke such statements for what they were: explicit religious bigotry.

That’s why it’s important I add my voice to the many who are calling an attempt to remove Shahid Shafi from his vice-chairmanship in the Tarrant County Republican Party offensive, wrong and un-American.

Yes, Shafi is a practicing Muslim. He’s a doctor and a father; a Southlake City Councilman; a proud American. He’s also a conservative, and it was his political views and his devotion to them that earned him an appointment in the local party earlier this year. His religious affiliation didn’t matter.

But in August, a small group of disgruntled activists began calling for Shafi’s removal from his leadership position. Their argument was similar to that made about Barrett — Shafi’s adherence to his faith makes him ineligible for the job.

That’s absurd.

The group calling for Shafi’s removal — despite suggestions otherwise — is small and extreme. We have no reason to believe that these views are shared by anyone other than the few so bold and inane as to give them voice. The problem is, like most activists, their voices are loud; to those eager to paint all Republicans as bigots, their insults are welcome.

The specific claims against Shafi are not worth repeating; they are nonsense as much as they are repugnant. To its credit, much of the local party leadership, past and present, has said so.

Unlike the senators who stood by while Barrett was insulted and caricatured for her faith, many local Republicans have expressed support for Shafi and outrage over the entire incident. Several precinct chairs have threatened to resign their positions should Shafi lose his vice-chairmanship. Good for them. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The midterm elections were a powerful reminder to local Republicans that our county is no longer reliably red. Lest we forget, Beto O’Rourke won Tarrant County; Congressman-elect Ron Wright lost it.

The future of the GOP in Texas (and across the nation) will depend on growing the party, on building coalitions and attracting new members, including those who have not traditionally found a political home in the GOP. Now is hardly the time to be forcibly ousting members.

In condemning the actions taken against Shafi, the party leadership seems to recognize this. But they also recognize that the intolerance expressed by a few, left unaddressed, can become a dogma of sorts. That kind of dogma is of concern. It is one that needs to be quashed.