Suburban Republican activist sought to 'eliminate the influence of Islam'

Jeff Baumann's resolution sought to limit Muslim influence in the Republican Party... and all other aspects of Minnesota.

Jeff Baumann's resolution sought to limit Muslim influence in the Republican Party... and all other aspects of Minnesota. Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune

On Tuesday night, Republican activist Jeff Baumann introduced an explicitly anti-Islamic resolution at a caucus meeting in the suburban Coon Rapids-Brooklyn Park area.

Baumann's resolution, first noticed on the Bluestem Prairie blog, declared that “no Islamic leader, religious or otherwise, shall ever be allowed to deliver the invocation at any Republican convention or event." 

The resolution continued:

“That affirmative and ongoing actions be taken to minimize and eliminate the influence of Islam within the Minnesota Republican Party or its subunits," and called for "legislation, policies, and educational programs be implemented to increase awareness of these facts so as to evermore minimize and eliminate the influence of Islam within Minnesota, including Minnesota schools.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, declined to call Baumann's resolution problematic, or even anti-Muslim. Carnahan said her primary concerns were on getting the caucuses running smoothly, and administering the governor's straw poll.

Carnahan pointed out there are more than 4,000 precincts in Minnesota, and said, “for me, as the chair of the party, to get involved when one person or one precinct caucus is bringing forth a resolution, at the very grassroots level, is not my focus.”

Carnahan did say one part of Baumann's resolution should be ruled “out of order." Only the chairperson of the party can make decisions about a religious invocation, including whether to hold one at all.

Jaylani Hussein, director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said called Baumann the “worst of the Republican party” and described the resolution as expressing a “hoodless [Ku Klux Klan]” mentality.

“This is the hoodless KKK of this time,” he said. “Anyone that agrees with this type of anti-constitutional, KKK-style hate, should really be lumped in with that same group.”

Hussein said, state-wide, the party has generally been welcoming to the Muslim community, and that Republican membership is increasing in the community. Recently, however, the party has come under fire for a wave of anti-Islamic rhetoric.

In the last week, Republican state representatives Kathy Lohmer and Cindy Pugh, and Dave Sina, the chairman of the Fourth Congressional District GOP, shared a Facebook post saying that a friend observed a caucus training session where Muslim-Americans were aiming to “infiltrate” Republican caucuses. (The post neglected to mention that both parties, as well as other religious and interest groups, routinely hold caucus training sessions.) 

Instead of applauding civic participation, the Facebook posts alleged nefarious goals: loosening up immigration laws and diverting money to education and religious justice, all allegedly in a grand scheme to recognize Sharia law. Pugh has since distanced herself from the post in an emailed statement to the Star Tribune, writing she meant only to "inspire Minnesotans to participate in the caucus process."

Carnahan, meanwhile, told the Star Tribune that Muslims were welcome to caucus and that there was no religious test for participation.

Carnahan disagreed with Hussein’s harsh assessment of Baumann's resolution, and said it was unfair to extrapolate the views of an individual with the whole party. She said the party welcomes anyone that supports and shares their values.

One of those welcome individuals is Baumann.

“I know Jeff Baumann, and he’s a very good man,” she said. “Everybody comes at life and views things through a different lens.”

This is not the first time Baumann's Islamaphobia has made news. In 2011, he was an outspoken opponent against the construction of a mosque in Plymouth. At a city council meeting on the topic of the mosque, Baumann said it's "treason" when one is caught “aiding the enemy," an apparent reference to Muslim-Americans.

In 2016, he held a "Shariah 101" event in St. Cloud to warn of creeping influence of Islamic law in this state. 

If Baumann intends to "eliminate the influence of Islam," he will have to find another way. According to Senate District 36 GOP chairman Tim LaCroix, Baumann's resolution "was presented in a minority of our precincts" Tuesday night, adding, "I'm not even aware that it passed in any precincts."

Had it been approved, the resolution would've gone before the SD 36 GOP committee, which LaCroix chairs, which would then decide if it should be considered at the party's endorsing convention. LaCroix said he hadn't learned much about Baumann's resolution prior to the caucus. 

"No one asked me about it going into this evening," LaCroix said. "And it wasn't presented in my precinct, so I really have no comment on it at this point."