July-August 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

A Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia who is Muslim was asked how his religious beliefs might affect his governing during a May 25 candidates’ forum, a question that was not asked of other candidates.

A television station in Washington, D.C., WJLA, hosted a debate featuring six candidates who were vying for the second slot. Among them was state delegate Sam Rasoul, who is Muslim.

During the debate, WJLA anchor Dave Lucas noted that Rasoul has raised a lot of money from out of state and asked, “Talk a little bit about your fundraising efforts, and can you assure Virginians you’ll represent all of them regardless of faith and beliefs?”

Rasoul pointed out that most of his donors live in Virginia and ignored the part of the question about his faith, reported The Washington Post. However, he later tweeted a photo of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson’s pioneering 1785 law that established church-state separation in Virginia. Rasoul wrote, “American religious freedom began with the Statute For Religious Freedom in part because of the persecution of Baptists by the Anglicans. We serve all people. Of all faiths. We welcome you & love you as you are.”

Lucas was criticized for the question. During a news broadcast on WJLA later that night, another network anchor, Alison Starling, apologized, calling Lucas’ question “inappropriate” and “disrespectful.”

“We have reached out to Del. Rasoul’s campaign to sincerely apologize for this question and for the impact of these words,” Starling said.

Rasoul came in second place in the state’s June 8 Democratic primary.

A Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia who is Muslim was asked how his religious beliefs might affect his governing during a May 25 candidates’ forum, a question that was not asked of other candidates.

A television station in Washington, D.C., WJLA, hosted a debate featuring six candidates who were vying for the second slot. Among them was state delegate Sam Rasoul, who is Muslim.

During the debate, WJLA anchor Dave Lucas noted that Rasoul has raised a lot of money from out of state and asked, “Talk a little bit about your fundraising efforts, and can you assure Virginians you’ll represent all of them regardless of faith and beliefs?”

Rasoul pointed out that most of his donors live in Virginia and ignored the part of the question about his faith, reported The Washington Post. However, he later tweeted a photo of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson’s pioneering 1785 law that established church-state separation in Virginia. Rasoul wrote, “American religious freedom began with the Statute For Religious Freedom in part because of the persecution of Baptists by the Anglicans. We serve all people. Of all faiths. We welcome you & love you as you are.”

Lucas was criticized for the question. During a news broadcast on WJLA later that night, another network anchor, Alison Starling, apologized, calling Lucas’ question “inappropriate” and “disrespectful.”

“We have reached out to Del. Rasoul’s campaign to sincerely apologize for this question and for the impact of these words,” Starling said.

Rasoul came in second place in the state’s June 8 Democratic primary.