Muslim advocacy group asks Kansas senator for equal representation after offer to convert
Sen. Mark Steffen says ‘liberal media’ attacked him for his Christian faith
Sen. Mark Steffen says the liberal media was attacking him for his religion and that society had devolved into emptiness. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — A Muslim advocacy group on Friday asked Sen. Mark Steffen to commit to fair representation of all constituents following news reports of a conversation in which Steffen offered to convert a Muslim woman.
Steffen’s comment came during a meeting with a group of young Kansans from Wichita and Hutchinson in his office on March 16. Rija Nazir asked how Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican, planned to represent non-Christian constituents.
“I would be happy to try and convert you,” Steffen said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Kansas Chapter made the audio clip public on Friday while asking Steffen for equal representation of all constituents.
Steffen previously denied making the statement, telling Kansas Reflector this “was not true” and a “false statement, 100%.” He also told The Topeka Capital-Journal it was “a 100% inaccurate statement,” then offered to convert the reporter.
Kansas religious leaders and civil rights groups expressed concern about Steffen and asked him to represent constituents of all faiths.
Moussa Elbayoumy, board chair for the CAIR-Kansas Chapter, said Steffen’s reaction was inappropriate.
“While we respect the senator’s right to his own religious beliefs and convictions, it was totally inappropriate to imply that a Muslim constituent would need to convert to Christianity in order to receive representation from their elected official,” Elbayoumy said. “If this was an attempt at a joke, it was a bad joke. We encourage the senator to confirm his willingness to represent all his constituents equally, regardless of their faith, and then put his words into action.”
Steffen responded to news reports in a post to his Facebook page Thursday night.
“It seems that the Liberals and the liberal media are attacking me for my Christian faith,” Steffen wrote. “Our society has devolved into a terrible emptiness. We have made ourselves our god and it doesn’t work. I care about you and God loves you. It’s not complicated. Our happiness, our contentment, our eternal life is thru Christ our Savior.”
Reactions to his post were mixed, with several Kansans asking him to stop comingling faith and politics. Others supported his stance.
Jonathan Garrett: “We voted for a real and honest politician and we got one! I remember you ran on the platform of God, family and true conservatism. Voters elected you by a landslide! You have been true to your promise! You speak with clarity and conviction! You have not caved on important issues! You have the guts to call out the corruption and special interests! The few haters can hate!”
Lyn Hardesty Schultze: “No one cares about your Christian faith which you constantly beat your chest and crow about. What people care about is how you use it as a cudgel to beat the oppressed and marginalized communities of our state. Your hatred is unchristian. And Jesus would be ashamed of you.”
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