Islamist interfaith engagement with American Christians has received significant attention in recent months. Now, an Israeli legal organization has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service over the Presbyterian Church USA’s meetings with Hezbollah members.
The Israel Law Center’s 38-page complaint with the IRS also accuses the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) of violating its non-profit status with extensive political lobbying along with meeting with a terrorist group overseas.
“There is no mention in PCUSA organizing documents that it perceives fulfilling Christ’s work by meeting with and endorsing statements of a US-designated terrorist organization found to be responsible for the death of United States civilians and marines,” the Center says.
In 2004, the PCUSA’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy sent a delegation of two dozen representatives to Beirut, Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah. The terrorist group had a field day with it, showing the meeting on its Al-Manar propaganda station. The clips included one delegate praising Hezbollah.
“We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people,” Elder Ronald Stone of East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh said.
Stone also appealed to Hezbollah’s anti-Semitism by saying that dialogue with Islamic leaders is easier than with Jewish leaders.
The Presbyterian Church USA responded by saying the meeting was “misguided” and unauthorized.
This second trip was led by Reverend Nuhad Tomeh, the Presbyterian Church USA’s General Liaison for Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Despite this meeting with Hezbollah, Tomeh served in this position until the fall of 2013.
Tomeh does not currently have an official title with PCUSA, but his ties have not been severed. He is still promoted on the Presbyterian Church USA’s Presbyterian Mission Agency website.
The PCUSA spokesman for the trip was Robert Worley, a former professor at a Presbyterian seminary. He was quoted in the Lebanese media regurgitating Hezbollah’s propaganda:
“The Americans hear in the Western media that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and they do not hear any other opinion. They know nothing about the party’s concern for the people of the south.”
Worley confirmed to the New York Times that he was being accurately quoted by the Lebanese press and reiterated his stance on Hezbollah, saying that the group “brought peace to that region of the world.”
When asked about Hezbollah’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S., he said, “Is ‘terrorists’ the right word? They are resistance.”
A national PCUSA represetative responded by saying the PCUSA official was not representing the church in the visit. It said the Presbytery of Chicago’s Middle East Task Force does not reflect the church’s official stances.
The church’s Chicago leader, Rev. Robert Reynolds, said he regretted the meeting because Hezbollah “used the group’s visit for political purposes.”
At best, this statement displays a stunning ignorance of how Islamist terrorists work; at worst, it displays a willful collusion by the PCUSA in its dealings with Islamist radicals.
These dealings include joint activism against advertisements spreading awareness about violent jihad and rushing to the defense of Islamic groups with links to the Muslim Brotherhood and histories of extremist rhetoric who accuse their critics of bigotry.
The church also opposes U.S. military action against the Islamic State (ISIS), arguing that the group can be dealt with peacefully and that U.S. “aggression” is to blame for Islamist terrorism and extremism.
Earlier this year, PCUSA published a study guide for members that argues against Christian support for Israel’s existence as a political state. It teaches that such support is “providing theological and ideological ‘cover’ for the takeover of Palestinian land, and the domination and dispossession of the Palestinian people during the past one and a quarter centuries.”
Islamists consider PCUSA an ally because of its anti-Israel activism and blaming of Israel for Islamist terrorist acts.
Unsurprisingly, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and the Iranian regime celebrated the study guide.
In June, PCUSA voted to divest $21 million from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions to punish them for their work with Israel.
No similar action has been taken against business working with the Iranian regime or other Islamist extremists.
PCUSA says it has over 1.7 million members in over 10,000 congregations across the country. There are huge ramifications from the Islamists’ influencing of this church’s membership. And events in recent months show that this engagement is not limited to PCUSA.
Minnesota Council of Churches
On November 9, the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center based at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota brought in an Islamist extremist linked to the Muslim Brotherhood for an interfaith event. The Center was founded by the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota.
One of the keynote speakers at the event was Jamal Badawi, whose history includes endorsing suicide bombings and “combative jihad” and praising Hamas as “martyrs.” He is also close to Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi.
Badawi used to be listed as a member of the board of directors for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and designated unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-financing trial. He is also personally listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in that trial.
Badawi is one of the founders of the Muslim American Society, which federal prosecutors say was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” Badawi’s name is listed as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood official in an internal document from 1992.
A New Interfaith Coalition
In October, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation organized Muslim and Christian leaders to form a coalition against the persecution of minorities in the Arab world, including Christians. It also aims to promote religious tolerance in general and to fight negative stereotypes of Arabs.
The mission is honorable but the coalition includes radical organizations with links to the Muslim Brotherhood. It includes Nihad Awad, Executive-Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Syed Moktadir, president of the ADAMS Society and Sayyid Syeed, the leader of the interfaith office of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
The Middle East Christian Committee published a letter to coalition member Archbishop Atallah Hanna in Jerusalem to ask for the removal of CAIR Executive-Director Nihad Awad. The request was endorsed by the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy.
Dean of Washington National Cathedral Defends Muslim Brotherhood
There was also a major controversy when the Washington National Cathedral allowed Islamist groups with extremist histories to hold Muslim prayers inside the church on November 14. The Cathedral’s director of liturgy described it as a moment for the “voices of moderation” to be heard.
Despite the significant media coverage, the Dean of the Cathedral, Gary Hall, said he wasn’t aware of reports linking the participating Muslim groups to the Muslim Brotherhood.
When asked if that would bother him, he answered, “No more so that it would alarm me that people in my own faith and tradition have links to other kinds of … inappropriate or unethical or immoral kinds of behavior.”
The reporter then asked the Dean if he knows of the Brotherhood’s extremist agenda. He replied, “I’m aware that they are the legitimately elected government of Egypt.”
The Dean then criticized the reporter as “McCarthyite” and said, “The kind of things you are bringing up are the kinds of extremism we are actually trying to disassociate with.”
The U.S. Muslim Brotherhood wrote a 1991 strategic memo that describes its “work in America as a kind of grand jihad … in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within.”
One of the key instructions given to the Brotherhood network was to “possess a mastery of the art of ‘coalitions,’ the art of ‘absorption,’ and the principles of ‘cooperation.’”