WHYY reports that the pastor of a Lutheran church in Pennsylvania is under fire for saying during a sermon that he hoped the Notre Dame fire in Paris was the work of Muslims so that it could be used to justify a "violent purge" of their people from France.
Pastor Carl Johnson of St. John's Lutheran Church in Kittanning made the comments during an Easter Sunday service and told his congregants that his remarks were a public confession of sin. He claims that his feelings of fighting "evil with evil" was the wrong approach.
Johnson made the comments while describing his thoughts as he watched Notre Dame burn.
"As it was burning, I immediately suspected who? The terrorists who had tried in 2016 to blow it up. There have been attempts before because it is the symbol of Christianity in France," Johnson said.
"I immediately made that conclusion, but that's not the bad part that I'm confessing. I was hoping it was Muslim terrorism so that, hopefully, there would be a violent purge of Muslims from France. I wanted that because France is lost."Afterward, the Kittanning pastor spoke about the increasing number of Muslims in France, highlighting a statistic that 9 percent of the country is Muslim. He continued to warn that if Muslims keep having children more frequently than white French residents, Muslims in France will become the majority in just a generation or two.
"There's just no stopping it."Johnson acknowledged the "problem" with his wish and went on to say that he needed "Jesus." After his comments, he did not make any additional remarks about Muslims or clarify his opinion on them.
Abbas Barzegar, director of research and advocacy at the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations, called Johnson's comments "extremely irresponsible" and accused him of pandering to people by playing to "anti-Muslim tropes and conspiracy theories" and stoking "anti-immigration feelings."
And while Johnson believes that his thought was meant to be a teachable moment, Barzegar thinks that the lesson many will glean from his comments might be the opposite of what the pastor intended. He claims that Johnson's remarks were either "short-sighted" or a "sinister, bigoted move," and added that leaders like him must understand that their words have consequences.
After Johnson made his comments, many church-goers left in disgust, including Sarah Assali, a general surgery resident at Allegheny General Hospital, who said that they made her "incredibly uncomfortable."