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Readers share their opinions about Islam class

When I wrote about the Charlotte County Supervisor of Elections’ class on Islam last week, I expected to get a few comments.

And I did. Readers sent me quite a few emails about Paul Stamoulis and his desire to teach voters about Islam.

I thought I would share some of them with you today:

Barbara Jerszyk wrote: “So now I know that I am not the only one disappointed in an elected official.He implied that Muslims could ignore the Constitution in favor of Sharia Law. Do you think that W(Horrors)... Christians would violate the Constitution of the U.S.? What’s next for Stamoulis? Ramifications of Roe vs Wade? Maybe how same sex marriage harms heterosexual marriage. Experts and knowledge are overrated.”

Richard Jones wrote: “I see no problem at all with Stamoulis presenting his class on politics andgovernment. It’s a history course on how democracy and representative government developed. The course also deals with some current local, state and national issues. And yes, he touches on the spread of Christianity and Islam.

“I liken it to a course in World History I took as a sophomore in high school 65 years ago. The teacher in that class was, by the way, neither a trained historian nor a trained theologian.”

Alma F. Harris weighed in:“Our forefathers thought long and hard and there was a reason they determined church and state must be separate. I saw a clip on the evening news on the day this talk occurred and could not believe what I was hearing. Mr. Stamoulis’ actions, as Supervisor of Elections, were completely inappropriate by giving a talk on Muslims and Islam. He is not an educator and as far as I could find out has not

JIM | 5

EXECUTIVE EDITOR


JIM

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acquired degrees in Islam or Christianity.

As an individual, he has a right to his opinions, but he cannot and should not use his position to further his personal opinions in a public forum paid for with tax dollars. He was completely out of line. I feel tax dollars were misused for this and he should be, at the least, reprimanded for his actions. I am sure there are groups, well-versed in Islam and Christianity, who would consider having a panel discussion which may include Mr. Stamoulis as John Q. Citizen.”

Englewood resident

Nancy Kohlrieser wrote: “Hey Jim, I’ve followed this rather unusual event in the paper. Thanks for professionally keeping on top of it and passing accurate information on to the public. OK, I get the importance of community education but it seems like there are some significant boundary issues here.

What does ‘Politics and Government: Strange Bedfellows’ have to do with ensuring fair elections? While wearing the elected official cap and publicly giving his personal religious views? Still referring to himself as “the honorable” when he served as a municipal judge for a few years in a past career? Using tax-dollars for advertising his event? Using tax dollar paid staff to assist with the event?

Spreading alternative facts about Islam and Christianity? Thankfully, Mr. Shibly was there to challenge him on his absurd implied comments about Sharia Law.”

Lisa Trejo said: “This article gets to the heart of the matter regarding an elected official speaking in their official capacity on religion, and using their office’s resources to do so. I appreciate the more thorough reporting, Mr.

Gouvellis. Mr. Stamoulis, in my opinion, fully failed to connect ‘radical Islam’ with any voter issue in Charlotte County.

We know other elements have indeed affected our election process, but that reality was not addressed. But beyond that, it’s that he used his official capacity as Supervisor of Elections to press his employees to attend his speech. As a paid poll worker from this past election cycle, I am on his email list.

However, it was only this specific topic for which I received an email from his office. None were sent out (to me) on any of his other “classes.”

When your boss tells you that you might be interested in something he sends via official email, it has impact. And, of course, the use of official resources to pay for an event to air his personal opinion is disturbing.

Free speech, yes, but not on my dime.”

Bob Reichert did not agree: “There is a difference between talking about the history of a certain religion and preaching on a certain religious belief. Paul Stamoulis has done a significant amount of research into the topic, ‘History of ISIS, al-Qaida and Radical Islam.’ The title itself clearly is not about preaching about a particular religious belief but more clearly is about a fanatical group whose very purpose is to destroy all non-believers.

As for your comment and others’ regardingPaul’s lack thereof of a formal educational background, I do believe that perhaps we need more such “teachers” in our educational system today, based upon the misinformation being spoon-fed to our childrenby today’s so-callededucators.”

Xavier Narutowicz

wrote: “There is always an opposing force, and in today’s world, dominated by men who rule the Military Industrial State of the United States, you have Islam.

On the world stage, you might consider Russia and China as opposing forces, either real or fabricated, and any Western Democracy or Common Market has the potential of being a negative force. Islam was founded around 600 AD and in 732 a decisive battle was won by Charles Martel in Tours, France.

If that battle was lost, then Islam would have conquered the world.

Where they did conquer, the Balkans, half the people are Christian and half Islamic and you have constant instability, Balkanization.

“A creed of Islam has always been Jihad, conquering the world for Allah.

“Until recently, the world was saved from Islam because it became so backward they were no match for modern weapons.

At Omdurman, Sudan, the British killed about 30 thousand Dervishes with modern machine guns while losing about 250. The British went on to slaughter many more and subdued Islamic forces for most of a century. Oil wealth and modern medicine changed all that. We would not have an Islamic problem if the Western Democracies, led by the United States, had not empowered the Arab world with oil money. Because of immigration Islam is imbedded in Europe where most of the terrorist attacks occur even though the U.S. is ‘The Great Satan.’ It is a matter of opportunity.

“Obviously, we fear Islam, a belief that rallies people and causes them to sacrifice themselves.

We fear another Caliphate. The reality of our foreign policy in the Middle East is the destruction of any viable government. All the while, we say we are not at war with Islam.

“A belief can be right or wrong, if you judge it by its fruits, whether it advances mankind or hinders that advancement.

“There is no place on Earth that Islam exists where there is not conflict. Conflict is inherent to Islam … As a Christian I have a dilemma: do I follow the word of Christ or the State controlled by men? If, ‘I give to God what is God’s,’ as a disciple of Christ, I must give all of myself to God, therefore Christ and his philosophy will override the State … I adhere to a higher law; when I die the laws of men will avail me nothing at Celestial Judgement (most don’t believe in judgement); justice is sublime. I would expect that any true Islamic believer would uphold Sharia Law over the Constitution. I see no justification for Mr.

Stamoulis teaching, in his position, Islam and its ramifications. But, there should be a discussion. Toleration of all things, right or wrong, is a stupidity.”

Sheila Turner wrote: “The 2016 presidentialelection set the precedent for acceptance by many Americans of the blatant trampling of our Constitution, laws and decency. Now it seems the perpetrators feel they can move forward without hindrance, saying and doing whatever they please to satisfy their partisan lust for power. Stamoulis better think again if he thinks what he said in this “class” is appropriate or acceptable. He deserves to be reprimanded by his boss, whoever that may be. Or is the fox guarding the henhouse in Florida just like in D.C.? If so, we resistors will do all within our power to oust these people!”

Julie Mcgillivray

wondered if the supervisor could be objective: “Jim, I thank you for your column. I have been attending Paul’s government class and was quite taken aback by the email invitation to this speech. I thought it highly inappropriate, and would taint his objectivity in serving the Muslim Voters of Charlotte County. How could the man charged with registration and vote tabulation remain above the fray? Would the speech act as a chilling effect to this group of potential voters? I’m also involved with Jean Finks in the League of Women Voters. She and I both attended the speech in order to hear our SoE out. Although he was mostly factual, I still felt there were subtle slights and biases.…”

Tom Scott asked why taxpayers were involved with the class: “This so-called ‘class’ would have been inappropriate had he paid for it himself. It would be interesting to know why taxpayers are on the hook for someone in our employ who chooses to stroke his own ego, which is not part of the job. Also, when taking another paid position, it is proper for the person to then be called Mr.

and not Honorable. To his point about a topic on the mind of voters, it should be pointed out that more Americans die of domestic gun violence and a lack of access to affordable, quality health care. Why not acknowledge this? The other time I took exception to Mr. Stamoulis was during our class when he rendered his personal opinion on the so-called ‘bathroom bills’ across the country. As an LGBT person, I again felt this wrong and narrow-minded. As supervisor of elections, Stamoulis is a government official and needs to be impartial.

His responsibility as supervisor is to see that all citizens, regardless of faiths, parties or genders, are provided with the means to cast their ballots without prejudice. It is completely out of bounds for him to express his personal opinions in a public venue where his job was included in the advertisements for the event. I object to my tax dollars being used to pay for this event. And to use personnel who work for him — and us — is completely reprehensible. Now they get comp time, which is also at ourexpense.”

Mackie McNamara

thought the supervisor was out of bounds: “Our supervisor of elections is way out of bounds and I hope you and others will continue to call him out on this. I really resent him for using our tax dollars to preach his prejudice to the rightwing choir. I know they had me shaking my head with their reaction to your ‘fair and balanced’ assessment of the news media.”

Robert Moran wrote: “You covered all the points that troubled me.

It seems very easy to find fault with the “other” person’s religion.”

Cris White thinks Islam in America needs further discussion: “From my experience, an honest discussion on Islam, specifically the REAL teachings of the Quran, is lacking in our society. We have been taught to pussy foot around the subject. Also, in my experience it is a subject that we want to know more about.

And we want to hear it from people with actual knowledge, students of the Quran and people who have lived in Muslim countries. We should talk about how or if religious laws conflict with the laws of our country. We should be given real facts about ‘no go zones,’ honor killings, etc.

“In our country we are governed by a set of laws which are supreme, Islam is governed by religious code first. That is the main difference and it is why assimilation is difficult for them (if not impossible). So, while Paul Stamoulis may have gone about this the wrong way, I give him credit for having the guts and understanding that we need to face this head on. Your paper gave a viewpoint on death today. Let’s face some of the other difficult subjects without coating them with sugar first. And let’s go easy on those who are blazing the trail.”

Myrna Charry

thinks the lecture was inappropriate: “It was totally inappropriate for the County Election Supervisor to present his opinion on what has become an enormously inflammable subject.

We know from past records what is Mr.

Stamoulis’ bias, and using his elected position to further that bias borders on criminality.

I wonder, because he has access to the list of voters, did he use that list to advertise his ‘talk?’ I wonder whether he actually violated any portion of the law and should be investigated?

I suppose (and hope) that time will tell and the proper authorities will move forward if there is evidence of mischief.

I do hope someone is not asleep and paying attention to something that at the very least, has the appearance of impropriety.”

Thanks for the emails, everyone. When people express their opinions, we all tend to learn something.

Jim Gouvellis is executive editor of the Sun newspapers. You may contact him at gouvellis@sun-herald.com.

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