No more hate speech — that means you too, Mr. President


The massacre of 11 people by a neo-Nazi at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during Shabbat services is heartbreaking and terrifying. This intrusion of gunfire into sacred space is a profound tragedy for which the entire nation must atone. 

The man identified by police as the synagogue shooter, Robert Bowers, subscribed to conspiracy theories about “globalists” and Jews controlling the world. On a social media site called, which does not regulate posts, he wrote that HIAS, a Jewish refugee resettlement agency founded to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, was aiding the Central American immigrant caravan. Hyped by right-wing conspiracy theories, Bowers believed this impoverished group of refugees was invading his country and a threat to “his people.”

{mosads}The past few weeks, President Trump has intensified his own use of the same conspiracy theories and anti-immigrant tropes. Earlier in the week, the president openly called himself a nationalist and spoke against “globalists,” a term sometimes used as an anti-Semitic “dog whistle.” His heightened rhetoric around an exodus of suffering refugees from Central America — claiming they were criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” — has fanned the flames of immigrant hatred and paranoia.

The synagogue shooting, the worst on worshipping Jews in U.S. history, was one of a series of racially and politically motivated attacks last week. An incident in which a white man tried to force his way into a black church and then shot and killed two African-Americans at a Kentucky supermarket is under investigation as a hate crime. The mail bomber who tried to kill several of Trump’s political opponents — including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama — also targeted George Soros, a democracy-building Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor who is the subject of some of the far right’s most outlandish and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The president has often delighted extremists by using Soros conspiracies, most recently to try to delegitimize anti-Kavanagh protestors.

When hate is spewed from the highest office in our land, violence will ensue. A study by the ADL has demonstrated that hate crimes have surged. Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. increased 57 percent in 2017, the Anti-Defamation League said on Tuesday, the largest year-on-year increase since the Jewish civil rights group began collecting data in 1979.

Moral complicity for these acts rests not just with the president but with those who tolerate the president’s rhetoric. Moral complicity rests with those who don’t vote or who cast even a reluctant vote. Moral complicity rests with companies that permit unrestrained online forums for hate and business models that capitalize on humanity’s worst instincts.

We cannot reclaim these lives lost, but each of us today can resolve to defend our democracy and save American souls from the poison that hate groups seek to inject into our national spirit.

Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in a free America. In honor of those martyred by white supremacy, enact zero tolerance with political colleagues and elected officials when it comes to hate and hyperbolic speech. Show courage in promoting safe gun and internet safety laws. Do it like your lives, your children’s lives and the future of the nation depend on it.

Indeed, they do.

Jennifer Butler is the CEO of Faith in Public Life and former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships. Follow her on Twitter @JenButlerFPL.

Tags Barack Obama Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

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