Texas city council members censure colleague over anti-Islam Facebook post

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

PLANO, Texas — The city council of heavily Republican Plano has voted to censure one of its members for an anti-Islam Facebook post — a post for which he has apologized but over which he refuses to resign.

The 7-1 vote Sunday was a decisive repudiation of the kind of exclusionary rhetoric that President Trump himself has employed. Only embattled council member Tom Harrison dissented in the vote that came during a special council meeting called to address his Tuesday re-post from a Facebook group called Joined Hands Across America For Trump.

It featured a student in a hijab and these words: “Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.”

As word of the councilman’s action quickly spread in this affluent city of 286,000 about 20 miles north of Dallas, the city’s first black mayor called for his immediate resignation.

Harrison took the post down on Wednesday, but residents had already begun taking sides over whether he deserved to continue in office.

“My message to everyone within the Islamic community is: This is their home. They’re welcome just like everyone else is,” Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, a Republican elected in 2013 who has been critical of Trump, said at a news conference.

All of that happened within the last week, and on Sunday roughly 500 people showed up at city hall for a special council meeting called to discuss the future of Harrison, 73.

After an hour behind closed doors, the council took their censure vote in public session.

“Six years ago or 10 years ago, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt,” said Plano resident Gans Subramanian, a Hindu immigrant from India who attended the meeting. “But in the current political context, we are all very, very careful about things. … If you have a councilman make an incorrect statement like that, it breaks the trust in the community.”

The mayor said the censure serves as a public admonishment of Harrison. The council does not have the power to remove him. That would require a recall petition and referendum decided by voters, city officials said.

“I am not xenophobic. I am not a bigot. I am not a racist,” Harrison said in public session after listening to a half-dozen of his colleagues either demand that he resign or encourage him to come to that decision on his own. 

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