Oregon lawmaker shuts down Holocaust denier’s testimony on genocide education bill
An Oregon state lawmaker shut down a Holocaust denier who planned to read “offensive” comments downplaying the Nazi genocide at a committee hearing.
The Oregon House Education Committee on Wednesday hosted a public hearing regarding a state Senate bill that requires school districts to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides, The Oregonian reported.
But several residents used their testimony to deny or downplay the events of the Holocaust, reportedly causing Oregon Rep. Margaret Doherty (D) and other committee members to become visibly shaken.
Doherty, the committee’s chairwoman, gave all participants the right to speak during the hearing but she limited testimony she found “offensive.”
One resident, Thomas Madison, had submitted his comments in writing before the hearing. Madison’s notes claimed that only a small number of Jews died in Nazi concentration camps, predominately from disease and starvation, The Oregonian reported.
Doherty asked that Madison not read his notes directly but summarize them for the lawmakers.
“Some of the things in the testimony are quite offensive to me personally,” said Doherty. “We’re going to give you the opportunity to speak, but I want to have you just very, very briefly summarize what your testimony is.”
Madison became agitated and argued that he should be allowed to counter the “exaggerations” that Oregon students would be taught if the state Senate bill passed in the House.
“I’m offended by it,” said Madison. “This is a public testimony, a place where people come to discuss issues left and right. And you have stopped me from doing so.”
“Yes, I have,” Doherty responded calmly, according to the newspaper.
The Oregon House committee ultimately voted 9-0 to send the Senate’s bill to the House floor.
“I’m not a person that likes to promote hate and untruths,” Doherty said after the tense hearing. “You give people the opportunity to speak, up to a point. And then you tell them their testimony is over.”
The bill would require school districts to provide education on the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
Several other state legislatures, including North Carolina, have introduced similar bills this year.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) last month signed a bill that “strongly” encourages the state’s schools to teach about the subject.
The legislation does not require that schools teach about the genocide but encourages middle schools, junior high schools and high schools to add the lessons to their curriculums.