It was Interfaith Day Wednesday at the South Dakota capitol in Pierre. About 50 people, representing several religions, gathered in the rotunda to pray; an example of people of different faiths coming together.
Then Sen. Neal Tapio, R-Watertown, the former state campaign chair for Donald Trump, happened by, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader says.
The group asked him to pose for a photo.
.@neal_tapio joins the Interfaith Coalition for a group photo. Immediately following, Sen Tapio started an impromptu press conference with a racist fueled rant filled with misinformation. #sdleg #HifromSD pic.twitter.com/7QzKoc4WuL
— South Dakota Voices for Justice (@sdv4justice) January 10, 2018
It was going well until Tapio shouted, “I don’t like being called a racist.”
He stressed the need to ban travel to the United States by Muslim individuals, particularly from Muslim-majority countries where groups have supported Sharia law.
“If you don’t have the freedom to leave a religion, is there a freedom of religion?” Tapio said. “And that’s the question we have to asks ourselves as a state.”
As Tapio stepped away from the group he told reporters that the interfaith day was a “political movement.”
Those on the steps continued to pose for photos, this time without him.
Around Tapio, coalition members started singing “America the Beautiful,” temporarily muffling Tapio’s comments.
"Refugee resettlement and interfaith dialogue is a part of war"-Sen. Neal Tapio. The full story and video: https://t.co/ZdEq13dNK4 pic.twitter.com/Xt6BlHKVAE
— Sam Caravana (@samcaravana_) January 11, 2018
In a statement, Tapio said “hiding behind an interfaith group and then using terrorist style bullying tactics in the press is a slap in the face of every patriotic American service member that signed up to defend freedom.”
Related: Republican gubernatorial candidate Phillip Parrish won’t talk with interfaith leader about faith because “Islam is ultimately not a faith” (Bluestem Prairie)