Rand Paul of Kentucky violates American principle of religious freedom

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Dilawar Syed, President Biden’s choice to serve as a deputy administrator of the US Small Business Administration (SBA), is obviously qualified for the position. He has had a successful career as an entrepreneur managing software, healthcare and artificial intelligence companies.

Like the United States Chamber of Commerce Noted in their endorsement of his appointment, “Dilawar Syed has an impressive track record as an entrepreneur and understands the operational challenges of scaling a start-up to meet growing market demand.” The National Small Business Association has also supported his appointment, stating “He has faced real world difficulties in developing a new business, and he has also served a clientele of small businesses, learning what they need and how best to serve them.”

Small businesses in the Commonwealth, in particular, would benefit from Syed’s leadership as number two in the SBA. Yet our Senator Rand Paul – the top Republican on the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship – is leading a boycott of Syed’s appointment.

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Senator Paul and his fellow Republican senators on the committee three times refused to appear at committee meetings and thus prevented a quorum that would allow a vote. Their absence and delay tactics are an unprecedented and shameless alternative to simply voting no on a presidential candidate.

It appears that Senator Paul’s opposition is not based on Syed’s trade credentials, but rather on Syed’s faith. If confirmed, Syed would be the senior American Muslim official in the Biden administration.

“Due to the overwhelming evidence affirming Mr. Syed’s business acumen and qualifications to fill this role, it appears that the Republicans on the committee unfortunately turned to character assassination in the form of anti-Muslim prejudice and fanaticism to thwart its confirmation. ” indicated in a letter on the committee of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Bend the Arc: Jewish Action.

Senator Paul and his Republican colleagues on the committee honored Syed for his involvement in one of our country’s most important Muslim civic organizations, Emgage. They clearly studied the game plan for attacking American Muslims and resorted to one of the most common tactics: false allegations of anti-Semitism. Yet Jewish groups across the country have come to Syed’s defense, including the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League.

Senator Paul is undermine our nation’s commitment to religious freedom by his petty trafficking in Islamophobia. Kentuckians of all faiths should be alarmed by his litmus test for public service.

A group of faith-based organizations including Baptist, Presbyterian, Evangelical and Jewish organizations wrote a letter, addressed to Senator Paul and the leading Democrat on the committee, denouncing the Islamophobic attack on Syed.

“We do not normally comment on presidential appointments, nor the Senate confirmation process, [but] we feel morally obliged to speak ”, religious groups wrote. “Our constitution prohibits ethnic or religious testing for the exercise of public office. Doing so violates our nation’s precious principle of religious freedom. No one should be denied the opportunity for a position because of their appearance or the way they choose to worship. “

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The local business manager, Dr Sundeep “Sunny” Dronawat told me in a written statement that he supported the appointment of Syed “even though I am from India and Hindu, and that he is Pakistani and Muslim. , and that these two countries have fought many wars; it just makes sense to select the right person for the job, regardless of party affiliation, ethnicity, religion, race, country of origin. Dronawat added that “Small businesses in Kentucky will benefit greatly from Dilawar Syed as I have personally met him and told him about [Small Business Investment Companies] in Kentucky.

It is high time that Senator Paul and his Republican colleagues stopped this first boycott of a nomination in the history of the committee. It seems unlikely that a candidate of any other religious background has faced the attacks Syed is facing. These attacks undermine the fundamental American belief that everyone should be free to practice their faith as they see fit. An attack on a faith is an attack on people of all faiths who cherish the freedom to practice or not to practice their faith without fear.

At Committee meeting scheduled for July 13, Rand Paul chose to undermine religious freedom by not standing for the vote. At the July 15 meeting, he again violated religious freedom. And again in the September 21 meeting, he once again chose to undermine religious freedom. He will have another decision to make at the next committee meeting on November 4th. Hopefully this time he will make a different choice.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons is a non-resident member of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. He lives in Louisville, KY.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a writer and Christian activist from Louisville, started The Resistance Prays, a daily prayer for progressive Christians.  Graves-Fitzsimmons is listed as a Religious Leader to Watch This Year by the Center for American Progress and will be releasing a book in 2020 titled "Just faith." November 22, 2019


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