GOP delegate apologizes for phone message to church
GOP delegate and Spring Grove school board member Matthew Jansen took to Twitter Monday to apologize for his remarks about the sign outside of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Dallastown, which wished a "blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors."
The apology was in response to another individual's tweet. Jeff Nelson (@boldroastrev) tweeted to Jansen and another user, saying, "Rallying people to harass a church for showing kindness to others. Not exactly the stuff Jesus called for."
Jansen quoted the tweet and said "Jesus died for hardline islamist just like he did me. I do apologize for venting to the church. I was out of line."
The apology tweet comes after the Rev. Christopher Rodkey received a phone call from Jansen on June 11 saying that he was "shocked" by the "despicable," "unbelievable" sign and that Islam is a "godless," "pagan" religion. Rodkey had suggested Jansen, who will serve as a delegate to next month's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he has said he intends to vote for Donald Trump, is unfit for his duties on the school board after the comments.
Jansen also posted a photo of the sign on his Facebook and Twitter accounts with the church's phone number.
Jansen said in an interview that he felt the apology was necessary, and that he did not originally call the pastor or post a tweet with the sign and the church's number in an attempt to hurt anyone. Rather, he was speaking out of frustration at the "global events" that have occurred lately with radical Islam. He also said that the church is located right where he grew up as a child, inciting a "protectionist response."
"I am a Christian," Jansen said. "I know what Jesus would say, he would say we need to pray for our enemies, but that's a tough nut to chew when you're an alpha male like I am."
Jansen said that Rodkey has not spoken with him about his comments and that no one from the church has called him back, as he had hoped. Rodkey confirmed this, saying that as far has he was concerned, "This is over."
"He's got to face his own actions with the school board," Rodkey said. On Facebook, Rodkey said, "Forgiveness; forgiveness which comes from the same spirit of neighborliness for those of different faiths," in response to Jansen's Twitter apology.
The aftermath: Jansen said that he has received "heinous and criminal threats" since his remarks, to the point where he has had to change his phone number and contact local authorities. He said that he is frightened for his family's safety.
"I have a family, and they have nothing to do with my opinions," he said.
Spring Grove's school board will meet Monday to discuss the school district's 2016-17 budget and vote to approve or deny it. Jansen said that he is not worried about the meeting because he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights.
"Everyone's got an opinion," Jansen said. "It was a First Amendment right. I didn't break any laws, I didn't break any rules. I didn't mention the school board or the Republican Party. I brought a lot of unnecessary attention to the school, which of course wasn't my idea. I just wanted to rant about this silly sign."
Spring Grove Area School District released a statement about Jansen's comments, stating:
"The views or comments recently expressed on Mr. Jansen’s Twitter account or elsewhere are solely those of Mr. Jansen in his capacity as a private citizen and do not in any way represent the views or beliefs of the Spring Grove Area School District. The district has not approved, endorsed or otherwise embraced Mr. Jansen’s private views. The Spring Grove Area School District has always strived to maintain a diverse and tolerant learning environment, and we regret any discomfort his comments may have caused."
Though Jansen apologized for his comments being out of line, he said that he does still stand by them.
"I'm still a Christian, and (Christians and Muslims) don't share the same belief system," he said.