An Alabama state representative thinks he has a solution for combatting terrorism: People should shop only at businesses owned by “God-fearing Christians.”
Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport) wrote on his Facebook page earlier this week that Americans may be indirectly supporting terror if they don’t buy from other Americans, because non-citizens just aren’t the right religion – and could be supporting terrorism! (Of course he offered zero evidence to back his claims.)
“I have posted regarding this issue once before and believe it worth another read. As you travel during the holidays or any other time, please try to shop and purchase gas and other items at American owned stores,” wrote Harper. “The C stores/tobacco outlets, etc. with the lights around the windows and doors are not owned by God fearing Christians. In large part, these stores are owned by folk that send their profits back to their homeland and then in turn use these funds against our country to create turmoil, fear and in some cases death and destruction. I realize I am ‘painting with a broad brush’ here, but the madness has to stop. Please join me in making the extra effort to never support these stores/shops! I am trying to do my part and I know you will to. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May God Bless.”
Once comments on the post started coming in, Harper responded to a question about how consumers would know which businesses are owned by “God-fearing Christians.”
“Look behind the cash register,” Harper replied. “Most are owner/operators.”
How, exactly, can you tell someone’s religion and citizenship status just by looking at them? Harper must think it’s impossible for someone who isn’t white to be either Christian or a U.S. citizen.
The National Association for Convenience Stores found his reasoning curious. Jeff Lenard, the trade association’s vice president of strategic industry initiatives, told CBS’s MoneyWatch, “It’s absolutely misguided at best. I’m not aware of anybody who can look at somebody else and determine what their background is. I’d be even more concerned if that were to become a practice, whether you are talking about Christianity or Hindu or Muslim or Jewish or any other religion.”
It appears the post and all comments have since been deleted, probably due to all the media attention Harper received. In an effort to “clarify” what he meant, Harper said later that he was simply trying to boost the U.S. economy.
“God bless each and everyone and God Bless America!” he wrote in a comment on his original post. “Isn’t it funny when things are taken out of context. Please buy American every chance you get to build our local economies... where we know the revenues stay here in the good old United States of America! May God Bless!”
Unfortunately Harper is chair of the Alabama House of Representatives Economic Development and Tourism Committee, so his words actually carry some weight. And it’s a shame that is the case because he is completely wrong about economics, terrorism and religious liberty.
Harper’s assumption that a foreign-born person is likely to send money overseas to fund terrorism is offensive and ridiculous. He also seems to be unaware that most people who earn income in the United States owe taxes – even if they aren’t full citizens. So shopping at stores owned by non-citizens is still going to help the U.S. economy one way or another.
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of peace and understanding. In that spirit, Harper might benefit from putting some of those principles into action. Rather than seek to divide people into camps of “us” and “them,” he should work to build bridges of understanding to communities that he doesn’t seem to know much about.