GOP lawmaker accuses Nessel of ‘religious bigotry’ after retweet

    Attorney General Dana Nessel
    Dana Nessel at the MDP Convention, Feb. 2, 2019 | Ken Coleman

    State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) is accusing Attorney General Dana Nessel of “religious bigotry” after a recent retweet.

    The accusation stems from the Democratic attorney general retweeting a comment from a sexual assault survivor and campus sexual assault prevention coordinator for the state.

    Rep. Beau LaFave
    State Rep. Beau LaFave

    The message was critical of Michigan State University’s decision to hire a retired Court of Appeals judge. Judge Michael Talbot has ties to both the  Catholic Church and John Engler, a former Republican governor and interim MSU president who resigned facing backlash over offensive comments he made toward sexual assault survivors.

    LaFave called Nessel’s retweet “unacceptable” and said it “should not be tolerated anywhere in our state, and it will not be tolerated by a statewide elected official.”

    Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney fired back at LaFave in a statement she sent to the Michigan Advance.

    “Rep. LaFave’s one year of law school has provided him with little more than the ability to string together an unfounded and factually incorrect allegation,” she said. “Launching such an incredulous attack on the first day of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month adds to Rep. LaFave’s already poor grasp of this very important issue.”

    LaFave called the attorney general’s retweet “delusional” and said “the judge’s faith has nothing to do with his role in crafting rules protecting students’ rights during university proceedings.”

    The GOP state representative said he saw Nessel’s comment as an attack on Catholicism, although the retweet was not specifically anchored to criticism of the judge’s religion.

    “First she tells the press that Catholics shouldn’t pray to their rosaries because they don’t do anything, and now she quips that a judge cannot do his job because he is Catholic,” LaFave said. “What now has become clear is that there is a disgusting pattern of anti-Catholic discrimination emerging from our attorney general.”

    Michigan State University
    Michigan State University | Wikimedia Commons

    In February, Nessel urged the church to “stop self-policing” in sexual abuse cases and said that parishioners confronted by investigators ought to “please ask to see their badge, not their rosary.” The investigation into the Catholic church was launched by Nessel’s predecessor, Republican Bill Schuette.

    Nessel, who is Jewish, also talked to the Advance at length last month about the fear in both the Jewish and Muslim communities following a rise in hate crimes in Michigan and around the country.

    LaFave called on the attorney general to apologize to the judge, MSU and “the people of the state of Michigan.”

    Michael Gerstein
    Michael Gerstein covers the governor’s office, criminal justice and the environment. Before that, he wrote about state government and politics for the Detroit News, the Associated Press and MIRS News and won a Society of Professional Journalism award for open government reporting. He studied philosophy at Michigan State University, where he wrote for both The State News and Capital News Service. He began his journalism career freelancing for The Sturgis Journal, his hometown paper.

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