The Howey Political Report is the first to report on a public apology House Speaker Brian Bosma made to members of the Indianapolis Jewish Relations Committee for comments he made to the group last week in the context of discussing his appeal of Judge David Hamilton's order barring the House from allowing Christian only prayers at the beginning of its business days. According to Howey, Bosma met with three members of the group, including Henry Efromyson, Doug Rose and Marcia Goldstar. Bosma told Howey:
I extended a sincere apology if my words were taken as disrespect," Bosma said. "They accepted my apology and understood what was implied was not my intepretation." Bosma said the quote, carried on blogsites The Daily Pulse and Advance Indiana was not correct. "We did have a discussion on populations," Bosma said. "But I did not say it that way. It was a misunderstanding entirely."
The quote Bosma said was incorrect was first reported on the Daily Pulse and originated from an e-mail Rabbi Jon Adland, who was in attendance at the meeting, had sent to a number of persons expressing his concern about the comment. The rabbi alleged Bosma made the following statement: "How many Jews are there in Indiana? About 2%? There are at least 80% Christians in Indiana."
Giving Bosma the benefit of the doubt that he did not say what the rabbi specifically alleged in his e-mail account of the meeting between Bosma and 40 Jews from around the state, then why did he issue an apology? If he didn't make reference to Jews being only 2% of the population compared to the 80% Christian in Indiana, then what exactly was the "discussion on populations" and why was that relevant to the pursuit of the right to have Christian only prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives? A later report by WISH-TV's Jim Shella below sheds more light on the origin of the 2% comment.
The important point is that Speaker Bosma did recognize that he made comments that some people found offensive, and that he did the right thing in quickly reacting to a potentially explosive issue by meeting in person with members of the offended group and apologizing to them. The real test of his sincerity, however, will be his understanding that by pushing a Christian only agenda as he has since becoming Speaker, his actions have the effect of making others feel excluded. His failure to understand that will most likely lead to more regrettable meetings like the one he had today with members of the Jewish community.
To the dismay of Bosma, the story on his big misstep doesn't end on the blogosphere where the report first surfaced. WISH-TV's Jim Shella has a story on the incident which led off this evening's news broacast. Shella says:
Speaker Bosma met with about 50 Jewish leaders last week and after the meeting a rabbi sent an email to his congregation. In it, Rabbi Jon Adland said, "Everything we believed about this country had just been trampled. For the first time in my life as a citizen of this country, I was scared."
The rabbi's e-mail is now the subject of several blogs including one that carries a cartoon showing Bosma blocking minorities from a gate labeled "freedom." It all stems from a discussion regarding prayer in the Indiana House where it was pointed out that two percent of the population is Jewish and 80 percent is Christian.
Bosma told Shella, "I asked the group what percentage of the population in Indiana for demographic purposes was of Jewish tradition and faith and it was them who provided me with the two percent." But again, what is the relevancy of his question? Tyranny by a majority is precisely what moved Rabbi Adland to write his e-mail of concern. Echoing this concern is Rep. David Orentlicher (D-Indianapolis), the only Jewish member of the House. Shella reported, "[Orentlicher echoed the rabbi's concern about what he calls the "tyranny of the majority. That we are a democracy where the majority prevails but we're also a constitutional democracy where the majority prevails but important rights have to be protected for even small minorities," he said.
Shella reported that Bosma wanted the group to understand that he values his ties to the Jewish community "and that they are very valued citizens and that anything that had said to cause them to think anything differently that I sincerely apologized for that and he accepted that."
A big hat tip to the Daily Pulse for first bringing this issue to the attention of the public.
CORRECTION: In an earlier post we identified Rep. David Orentlicher as a Republican. He is a Democrat. We apologize for the mistake.