State Senator Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton) is attracting national attention for an email she sent condemning Islam and calling for Syrian refugees in the US to be kept in a "camp" separate from Americans.
"I do not want our governor bringing in any Syrian refugees," Morgan wrote in the email sent Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by Rhode Island Public Radio. "I think our country is under attack. I think this is a major plan by these countries to spread out their people to attack all non Muslim persons. I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important thing here."
Morgan continues (spelling and syntax have not been corrected): "If we need to take these people in we should set up refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous. The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim. We definitely need to stop this nonsense I agree. This is a major threat to our nation's security and people."
Morgan has not responded to telephone messages and an email seeking comment.
The freshman senator told WPRI.com that she meant to edit the email before sending it, something she attributed to the use of a new smartphone, and that she meant to confine her description of Islam to "the fanatical Muslim religion and philosophy."
Huffington Post has highlighted Morgan's comments.
State Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell (who said he was expressing his personal views) said, "Senator Morgan expressed herself very poorly but this is a very emotional issue. She is a good person who let her emotions take over when speaking about this difficult issue. I believe a majority of people are afraid of what could happen if there are refugees here that may wish to do us harm. What we have are people on one side of a civil war who are hell bent on doing damage to American people on our soil. We don't know who is who."
While governors do not have legal authority to decide to accept or reject refugees, Bell said, "Governor [Gina] Raimondo should be looking at it this from a 'best interest of Rhode Island resident' standard: What are the risks from a public safety standpoint? Can we handle refugees from an economic standpoint when our state continues to suffer from a very poor economy with no job growth?"
Other local elected officials have split on the question of whether allowing Syrian refugees into Rhode Island is a prudent idea. Republican Reps. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) and Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) oppose the concept, while Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Providence) and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa support it. Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has also come out in support of allowing the refugees into Rhode Island.
On Thursday, state Sens. Josh Miller (D-Cranston) and Gayle Goldin (D-Providence) are staging a 1:30 pm rally in the State House rotunda "to demonstrate support and compassion for refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria."
Then at 3 pm, Rep. Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) and some other GOP lawmakers plan a news conference and rally in the rotunda "to discuss the safety and security of Rhode Island residents in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France."
Governor Raimondo's office said the state has not been asked to host any refugees, and that the state would coordinate with the White House and State Police if the issue came up.
This post has been updated.